Election survey ranks broadband second most crucial infrastructure

Deloitte and BusinessNZ survey shows 34.3 percent of businesses think UFB won't lead to greater productivity

New Zealand's business community ranks broadband, or telecommunications in general, second behind physical transport as the infrastructure "having the most potential to contribute to New Zealand's future economic prosperity".

The question was asked as part of an election-year survey run jointly by consultancy Deloitte and BusinessNZ. More than 1000 New Zealand businesses were surveyed on factors likely to affect business, and also likely to figure in political parties' election policies. The survey is conducted in each election year. The 2011 survey was presented at a conference in Wellington yesterday.

Asked to rank the importance of broadband, transport, energy (electricity and gas) and water to prosperity, from 1, (lowest) to 5 (highest), respondents gave "broadband/telecommunications" an average rating of 3.88. Transport ranked 3.94, with energy at 3.85 and water at 3.72.

The parties, however, gave equivocal answers. Most say all four kinds of infrastructure are equally important, but the Maori Party gives broadband the highest priority. United Future ranks telecommunications and energy equal behind transport and water (also equal).

Asked "will the Government's Ultra Fast Broadband initiative lead to greater productivity and/or growth for your business?" 45.3 percent of survey respondents say yes and 34.3 percent no, while the remaining 20.4 percent say they are unsure.

The major parties take predictable positions, with National trumpeting the success of UFB and Rural Broadband Initiative to date, supported by United Future; Labour says it would "continue rollout of ultra-fast broadband, but believe the current scheme is flawed, anti-competitive and lacks transparency."

"As transport prices continue to rise, we need to turn more and more to 'weightless' exports such as IT, therefore need high-speed broadband in order to facilitate this," says the Green Party.

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