Upgrade to boost rural web speeds

Government goes to market for rural broadband boost

The Government expects Telecom, electricity lines companies and possibly community organisations to express interest in partnering with it for a $300 million upgrade to rural broadband.

The Economic Development Ministry yesterday invited expressions of interest, ahead of a formal tender that will be issued in August.

It wants to connect 93 percent of rural schools with fibre-optic cable, provide faster broadband to the remainder, and ensure 80 percent of rural homes and businesses can get broadband at speeds of at least 5Mbit/s.

The scheme is separate to its $1.5 billion plan to roll out ultrafast broadband in urban areas and will mainly be funded by a levy on telecommunications companies.

Communications Minister Steven Joyce said he expected the rural scheme would be as beneficial as the urban plan. It was unacceptable that about half of rural households had dial-up internet speeds.

Telecom spokesman Mark Watts said it would respond to the invitation.

"We anticipate playing a significant role in the future, given our strong commitment to rural New Zealand historically, and given the fact that we will be providing the lion's share of industry funding anyway."

The Government expects to awards contracts in November.

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