Government calls for national proposal on rural broadband

Regional companies urged to partner with national bidders

ICT Minister Steven Joyce has rejected a regional approach to the $300 million Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) and is seeking a national proposal instead.

Communications Minister Steven Joyce says in a press release that a request for proposal has been issued but "we are now seeking national coverage proposals rather than region by region proposals".

Regional bidders would have been able to make a significant impact on broadband coverage but would fall short of achieving the government's targets, he says.

The Ministry of Economic Development received 39 Expressions of Interest in May from a number of regional lines and fibre companies but Joyce says there is still an opportunity for these companies to participate.

"The government is encouraging regional infrastructure companies and other stakeholders to partner with national bidders, and is providing an additional six weeks for proposals to be prepared in light of the discussions that will need to be held with regional companies and stakeholders."

He says that, with the new approach, he is confident of achieving the target of 80% of rural households and businesses having access to broadband services of 5Mbps or better, and the remaining 20% of speeds of 1Mbps within six years.

"I expect the first agreement to provide fast rural broadband to be signed by the end of this year," he says.

The tender process closes on November 12. The RBI is being funded by a direct government grant of $48 million and an industry levy of $252 million. The MED also has the capability to borrow $52 million from the Ultra Fast Broadband fund.

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