Curran questions Joyce's rural broadband figures

Opposition spokeswoman raises the spectre of a new fibre monopoly

Opposition ICT spokeswoman Clare Curran has called on Communications and ICT Minister Steven Joyce to clarify the government's broadband plans following today's announcement of ramped up investment for rural New Zealand.

The government has boosted its announced investment in rural broadband from $48 million to $300 million, but Curran says more information is needed about where that money is coming from.

In particular, she asks whether the new public/private investment comes on top of the $1.5 billion already allocated to roll out broadband to 75 percent of the population.

"What proportion of the $300 million is public money? And where is the new money coming from?" she asks. "What discussions have already been had with private investors about rolling out the rural broadband scheme?"

Curran says there are concerns that the government is "lining up Telecom" to lead the rollout of rural broadband.

“How will the Minister ensure that the old Telecom copper network is not re-created in the fibre world?, and “What protections are in place to ensure open and cost-based access to the rural fibre network?” Curran asks.

Meanwhile, Federated Farmers has welcomed today's news — and claimed a share of the credit.

“The government’s initial announcement for broadband policy and investment left one quarter of New Zealand’s population out in the cold. Clearly that was a poor deal for farmers and a large proportion of New Zealanders. That’s why Federated Farmers had to act," says Don Nicolson, Federated Farmers' president.

“Over the past few months, we’ve had extensive discussions with Government and are pleased that it has listened to the Federation’s concerns and suggestions. This announcement is a significant step forward and a big feather in Federated Farmers cap."

Nicolson says the investment is a "huge boost" that will deliver economic and social growth.

Curran has been badgering Joyce in recent months to make his long-delayed announcement of the form and structure of the government's broadband investment.

“The industry is expressing grave concerns about the reasons for the ongoing delays in terms of the direction this government will take on rolling out broadband.

“A Telecom-led rollout could entrench a monopoly dominating the telco sector that the previous Labour Government had worked hard to change,” Curran says.

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