NZ govt offers more free fibre connections

In order to encourage take-up of the NZ Government's ultra-fast broadband roll-out, more free connections have been offered to some residents.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

To drive uptake of the New Zealand government's own national broadband network, the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) project, the government has arranged for its rollout partners to offer free connections to premises that are less than 200 metres away from the curb.

The New Zealand UFB is aiming to provide fibre broadband services of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds to 75 percent of the population at a cost of NZ$1.5 billion to the taxpayer, with the remaining NZ$2 billion being paid for by private businesses.

The rollout has been plagued by a lack of interest from residents, and the government-owned Crown Fibre Holdings had only 200 connections despite the network passing 45,000 premises as of July this year.

Previously, if residents wanted to get connected, they would have had to pay for the fibre to be installed from the road to their premises, but Crown had already signed up Ultra-Fast Fibre to offer free connections. Yesterday, New Zealand Communications and IT Minister Amy Adams said that Chorus, Enable, and Northpower have also now signed on to provide free connections for residents whose premises are within 200 metres from the road until the end of 2015.

"Given the enormous benefits and the wide range of services UFB will offer, we want switching to fibre to be as simple as possible," she said.

"While the provision of free connections was already in place for the vast majority of homes, the uncertainty for those classed as non-standard was creating some concern for retail service providers and the public."

In multi-dwelling units (MDUs), such as townhouses, that length is expanded depending on the number of premises. For apartment blocks, it is free for the first three storeys, and the companies will pay for the first NZ$1,000 of installation costs for taller blocks. For the 0.3 percent of premises that are farther than 200 metres from the road, the customer will be required to pay the difference.

Labour IT spokesperson Clare Curran said that the deal didn't go far enough.

"The government's new deal for Ultra-Fast Broadband connections is of little use, as it will expire before most New Zealanders get a chance to be connected," Curran said.

"There's also no detail on how many households will benefit from NZ$20 million over three years."

By comparison, Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) is rolling out fibre to the premises of 93 percent of the country. NBN Co has recently changed the rollout method, so that instead of waiting for premises to opt in, NBN Co will now roll the fibre right up to the side of the premises, and the connection will be placed inside the premises once a customer requests a connection.

NBN Co has still yet to work out how it will roll out fibre to MDUs, but indicated this week that it is close to signing a construction contract to handle this portion of the rollout.

Residents outside of the fibre footprint who still want the fibre to their premises can now apply with NBN Co, provided that they are willing to pay the difference in cost.

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