Broadband fund opens for business

Government is now accepting applications for $340 million scheme

The government’s $340 million fund to accelerate broadband is now accepting applications from business and community groups.

The Broadband Investment Fund (BIF) will provide $325 million in operating and $15 million in capital funding over five years. It is a key part of the Government’s Digital Strategy 2.0 package, more details of which are expected to be announced later this week.

In April, National presented an alternative "medium to long-term" fibre-to-the-home plan worth $1.5 billion.

“Our long term vision for rolling out fast broadband to all New Zealanders will see us spend more than $500 million in the next five years," says minister for communications and information technology David Cunliffe. "This includes targeting high speed open access urban fibre networks, improved rural connectivity and improved international links.”

BIF will be used to target three areas: facilitating high speed broadband to businesses and entities such as municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals in urban centres; extending the reach of broadband into underserved regions, particularly in the rural sector; and improving the resilience of New Zealand’s international connections, the government says.

Over forty submissions were received from interested parties on the draft criteria and process for BIF applications. Applications for the Broadband Investment Fund close on 30 September.

National leader John Key said of his plan that the initial goal is to ensure the accelerated roll-out of fibre right to the home of 75% of New Zealanders, however, "in the first six years, priority will be given to business premises, schools, health facilities, and the first tranche of homes".

The government's plan has been criticised for not going far enough, while National's has been under fire for not being based on open access principles and for being undeliverable in the proposed time-frame due to skills shortages.

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