The victory of New Zealand's National Party in the country's elections over the weekend has vaulted the creation of a $1.5 billion national fibre broadband network to the top of the government's agenda.
(Credit: NZ National Party)
The party's leader, John Key, will take the role of Prime Minister in a coalition with a number of smaller parties, ousting the country's long-time leader, Helen Clark, who will also step down from her position as Labor Party leader.
One of Key's election commitments, first outlined in April this year, is the creation of the $1.5 billion network, which he promised would deliver fast broadband to 75 per cent of New Zealanders, in a rollout similar to tentative plans for Australia's National Broadband Network.
However, while Australia's NBN will primarily be built by rolling out fibre cables to kerbside cabinets dubbed "nodes", in a deployment style known as "fibre to the node", the New Zealand solution will take fibre all the way to buildings, supported by mobile and satellite solutions in some places.
"In the first six years, priority will be given to business premises, schools, health facilities and the first tranche of homes," said Key in April. The $1.5 billion will come from the public purse, although private sector investors will also be able to contribute, with the caveat that the project will not "line the pockets of or give undue advantage to existing broadband network providers".
The structure of the arrangement will be in a private-public partnership that has been used for some infrastructure solutions in Australia; for example on large highway or roadwork projects. Similar to the NBN in Australia, the New Zealand project will be decided through a tendering process run by the government.
Key's party has committed to creating a so-called "open access" network, over which many different internet services providers will be able to provide services, and which will avoid "excessive duplication" of infrastructure.
The National Party has also committed to doubling to $48 million the Broadband Challenge Fund New Zealand established in 2006 to bring broadband to areas that didn't have it, and to provide fibre to urban areas. The fund will be re-focused on rural and remote areas.