Putting rural broadband to work

Kaingaroa Forest School and five local families are connected to fast broadband services through the Rural Broadband Initiative

The 2020 Communications Trust and local businesses have helped one of New Zealand’s most remote rural communities, in Kaingaroa Forest, near Murupara, to get connected to fast broadband

The link, formally established this month, is part of the government-backed Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) .

Five local families as well as the school and a business are now connected to broadband fibre internet services using wireless links and the school as a community hub.

“Because we live in a small rural community in the middle of the largest planted forest in the southern hemisphere, we think it is even more important for our kids to have ultra-fast broadband access to the internet than city children who have lots of other learning opportunities,” says Lorraine Dunlop, chair of the board of trustees for Kaingaroa Forest School, and also a participant in the Computers in Homes programme.

“A Wellington school can visit Te Papa at any time, but for us it is a major effort to take our 34 children on a school visit,” she says. “We look forward to not only being able to visit Te Papa online but also other museums from around the world.”

Students at Kaingaroa Forest School

The 2020 Communications Trust runs the Computers in Homes programme and other schemes to ensure New Zealanders, particularly those on low incomes, get access to the internet and the knowledge and skills to use internet-connected devices productively.

“While this is a modest achievement in terms of the numbers being connected, we believe this is an exciting leap forward in terms of delivering broadband internet services to rural communities,” says Laurence Zwimpfer, chairperson of the Computers in Homes programme.

“We have been working with the school and internet service providers for some months to identify an affordable internet connection solution for families who have been part of our Computers in Homes programme.

“Most families in Kaingaroa Forest Village no longer have telephone lines and as a result have been unable to get access to the internet from their homes. That is all changing today,” he says.

Last year the Trust found Chorus had installed a fibre cable to the school, but this had not been connected for school use.

“Our project has been to get this fibre into operation, not only for the school but also for the rest of the community, especially our Computers in Homes families,” Zwimpfer says. “We have worked with wireless infrastructure provider WiMax Developments Limited, Chorus — provider of the fibre cable — and TrustPower Kinect as the internet service provider.”

The project has also relied on support from Kaingaroa Forest School, a local wood processing business (KLC) and the village management committee. “Without the support of all these parties, the fibre would still be sitting unused today,” Zwimpfer says.

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