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Users welcome NZ rural broadband speed boost

New Zealand's rural broadband rollout will target speeds of 50Mbps by 2025.
Written by Rob O'Neill, Contributor

The New Zealand government's announcement of a boost for rural broadband has been welcomed by industry groups and users alike.

Amy Adams
Communications minister Amy Adams, who has been under fire over the performance of the current Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), today announced a new target for rural connectivity of peak speed of 50Mbps for 99 percent of the New Zealanders by 2025.

Currently the government-funded RBI targets peak speeds of just 5Mbps across the largely mobile data network.

The New Zealand Rural General Practice Network said enhanced access in rural New Zealand would be be hugely welcomed by rural medical practices, business, communities and individuals.

"Good broadband is something that people in urban areas expect and rural communities and the people working within them are no different," said chief executive Dalton Kelly.

Labour ICT spokesperson was much less impressed, saying rural New Zealand was angry about substandard internet connections and describing the announcement as "panicked, unfunded and unambitious".

"National's 'aspirational' target for broadband connectivity in ten years' time is a cynical attempt to distract from the under-delivering rural broadband," she said.

Telecommunications users representative group TUANZ said connectivity was a critical economic enabler for the New Zealand economy.

"One of the five key goals in our recently released strategic direction is to continue to advocate for ubiquitous high quality connectivity across the country and this newly announced Government target is a good step forward towards achieving this goal." said TUANZ CEO Craig Young.

Young said TUANZ would keep a watching brief over delivery on the promise.

InternetNZ said it was pleased by the announcement, but due to the fast-changing nature of technology, the targets would need to be reviewed regularly.

"InternetNZ believes in universal access to the internet -- no matter where they are. So we welcome this vision of nation-wide connectivity and reduced digital divides," InternetNZ chief executive Jordan Carter said.

"It is also positive that, given known technology today, the targets should be readily achievable for New Zealand. The flip side is that the targets must remain under regular review -- if technology allows a faster achievement of the goal or a higher target, then our sights should be raised higher."

Continuing her attack, Curran dubbed the new goal "another glossy distraction", saying even government backbenchers openly complained about the state of rural broadband.

"NZ$300 million has already been spent on a rural broadband scheme that has subsidised commercial networks but delivered little real value," she said. "It is doubtful that another NZ$100 million will make a significant difference after the first NZ$300 million proved so ineffectual."

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