More than 133,000 homes and businesses have now connected to the Government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) programme across New Zealand, as the build gathers pace.
In releasing the September 2015 quarterly report for the first phase of UFB, Communications Minister Amy Adams reports that almost 56 percent of the build is complete and more than 815,000 homes, schools and workplaces can now connect to the network.
The report shows the number of homes and businesses connected to UFB has increased by 26 percent over the past quarter to 133,684 while uptake across the network now sits at 16.4 per cent.
“The UFB rollout is one of the most ambitious infrastructure programmes we’ve ever undertaken and is making great progress,” Adams says.
“We’ve focused on schools, health centres and businesses as priority users, but we’re seeing rapid uptake among households too.
“With thousands of Kiwis switching over to fibre every month across the country, faster connectivity is delivering for thousands of New Zealanders across a broad range of backgrounds and geographies.”
Adams claims that UFB is a “step-change” for the country’s regional economies because it removes barriers of distance and allows those living outside the main centres opportunities to work, train or get specialist care.
“This new era of the digital economy means our best and brightest can create ideas, products and services from anywhere in New Zealand and export them to the four corners of the world,” Adams adds.
“This is why connectivity is such a critical factor in growing our regional economy.”
According to Adams, New Zealand’s rate of growth in fibre connections is the fastest in the OECD with speeds also tripling in the last six years.
“We’re now in the process of extending the network to 80 percent of New Zealanders and streamlining consenting issues to help Kiwis connect faster,” Adams adds.
In addition, Adams claims that connectivity is growing rapidly in the regions with more New Zealanders now able to access faster rural broadband.
The latest quarterly report for phase one of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) build as at 30 September 2015 shows 271,000 rural addresses can connect to the network.
“With 35.6 per cent uptake across the network, RBI is making sure that New Zealanders living in our rural and remote areas can enjoy the benefits of faster, better internet,” Adams adds.
“The RBI is making a genuine difference to farmers, schools, hospitals and health centres in rural areas as well as families and households.”
Adams reports that more than 102,000 rural copper lines have been upgraded and 122 new towers are now ready for service with a further 324 towers upgraded.
All rural hospitals are now able to connect and it is the Government’s aim to reach all schools and 90 percent of businesses by the end of the year.
“Rural connectivity is a core part of the Government’s plan to support our regional economies,” Adams adds.
“We want to see all New Zealanders, whether urban or rural, with access to the economic and social opportunities high-speed connectivity brings.”
Adams says the RBI programme has been subject to eight independent audits with another one underway, which show the programme is meeting its targets and working as expected.
Going forward, Adams says the Government is “now looking ahead” at enhancing and extending RBI to as many people as possible.
“We’ve allocated an extra $100 million to expand the Rural Broadband programme as well as $50 million to improve mobile coverage in black spot areas along main highways and in popular tourist destinations,” Adams adds.
“We’ve got a bold 2025 target of 99 per cent of New Zealanders able to access peak speeds of at least 50 Mbps - which is a ten-fold increase on RBI peak speeds.
“I’m proud to be putting rural connectivity at the heart of our regional economy development strategy.”