The Broadband Investment Fund, announced in yesterday’s budget, will be the main mechanism for the distribution of the government’s planned $340 million in urban and rural broadband funding.
An additional $160 million has been earmarked for broadband services to the education and health sectors, bringing the total investment to $500 million.
But how will the Broadband Investment Fund work?
According to briefing documents released yesterday, the funding will be available through a flexible, multi-year appropriation. This will be spent on partnerships and proposals “that clearly demonstrate their public good benefits” and contribute to critical investment areas.
These requirements will be adjusted in rural areas.
In urban areas it will be used to connect users to infrastructure that is required to be operated on an open access and non-discriminatory basis. Any legal entitiy will be able to apply for funding.
The priority in urban areas is to deliver high bandwidth services to businesses, health and tertiary institutions, schools and other entities and that supports future rollout of fibre or other high bandwidth technology to the home.
Ducting and dark fibre will be key.
The documents say the plan has been designed to attract a wide range of applicants to avoid the emergence of vertically integrated monopolies.
A minimum co-investment equa, to the Crown’s is required. The programme aim to promote competition “at the deepest level of the network”. All providers will have the opportunity to use the fibre and ducting as the basis for delivering future services to end users.
The funding is open to organisations not currently supplying telco services.
In rural areas the priority is to extend networks into underserved regions.
Alongside these initiatives $160 million will be spent on connectivity to health and education through the KAREN network and the Government Shared Network.
Applicant support services will be separate from decision-making. Independent evaluations will be made of proposals against criteria and a process audit will be conducted at the end of each year, the documents say.
Applications will be made in two stages, an EOI stage (expressions of interest), requiring a preliminary applications and outline. From here applicants will be selected to make a full application. This is expected to require a full business case.
Expressions of interest open at the end of July and these have to be submitted to the Ministry of Economic Development by the end of August. Decisions on the EOIs will be made by the end of October and full applications have to be submitted by March 2009.
Applicants will be informed of funding decisions in June 2009.