Capital's broadband network hits 15 and storms on

CityLink network anniversary celebrated, looks to 1Gb links

CityLink celebrated its 15th birthday this month in Wellington, but despite this miletsone the company won’t be resting on its laurels.

The metropolitan-area network operator will have 1Gb links – “and I mean affordable 1Gb” — available by Christmas, says chairman David Ware. And beyond that, he says, lie a set of “new technologies”. These are currently under wraps but, he suggests, game-breaking enough to be described as “CityLink 2”.

The function to celebrate the anniversary turned into a session of mutual congratulation – and not a little quiet self-congratulation — among parties who saw the potential of the internet and high-bandwidth networks back in the mid-90s.

Praise was heaped not only on CityLink, its current and former principals and others crucial to the company’s rise, but on Wellington as a suitable stage for innovation. Xero CEO Rod Drury pointed to the “compact” size of the capital as giving it an advantage over other local and overseas cities.

Being geographically close, Wellingtonians “build networks more easily”, Drury says, and not only among the limited ICT fraternity. “Our flatmates and people we run into at the gym” contribute ideas that spark innovation. “Our strength is in building such multi-disciplinary teams to get things done.” Now the internet is an established part of doing business; “we can do software business from New Zealand; we don’t have to move our families to another city,” he says.

Drury is also one of the backers of Pacific Cable, the company seeking to set up a second fibre cable through Australia and across the Pacific, to improve this country’s international communications capacity.

“Because Wellington is a government town, there has always been IT money being spent,” he told the gathering, adding that the city is a ready customer base for new ideas.

Former ICT Minister Maurice Williamson (currently Minister of Building and Construction, Statistics and Customs) praised CityLink, its original shareholders such as Lower Hutt entrepreneur Ron Woodrow, Clear Communications and the company’s Wellington City Council backers, for having the courage to invest in a metropolitan network before other New Zealand cities did.

Wellington’s mayor from 1992 to 1995, Fran Wilde, a former MP, was instrumental in clearing the way for CityLink. She spoke at the event, of how Wellington “somewhat bruised by the policies of the [Labour] government of which I was part”, needed “a boot in the bum to take itself seriously” and present a confident face to the rest of the world. CityLink, she said, was a crucial element of that.

TradeMe CEO Jon Mcdonald credited CityLink’s affordable, high-quality bandwidth as a material factor in the auction company’s rise to success.

New Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown also addressed the meeting briefly, emphasising the need for continuing social contact alongside electronic communication. A large number of people who “have not grown up with computers” may take time to be comfortable with them, she said.

Wade-Brown can claim a part in the early internet revolution, as a member of the first Council of the Internet Society of NZ (now InternetNZ) from 1995 to 1996.

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