Mallard supports Telecom's move into Probe schools

The government is endorsing Telecom's move to offer broadband services to schools that aren't covered by its Project Probe tender wins.

The government is endorsing Telecom's move to offer broadband services to schools that aren't covered by its Project Probe tender wins.

Telecom is offering its School Zone broadband service to schools around New Zealand, including those schools in regions covered by other Probe contracts.

Project Probe is the government's initiative to introduce rural and hard-to-reach schools and communities to broadband technology. Telecom and wireless network provider BCL have won eight of the regions with four more going to the Woosh, Vodafone consortium. Auckland went to Counties Power and Nelson was awarded to regional player The Pacific.Net.

Telecom's move is being praised by Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard.

"Probe has never undertaken to deliver schools to successful contractors. It's the providers' business to provide a service that's more attractive than their competitors'."

He says schools have a duty to ensure they sign up for the best deals they can and he's heartened by Telecom's response.

"It's clear this has stimulated Telecom into a high level of activity in the regions which 24 months ago it was writing off as hopelessly uneconomic. This is, in economic terms, a considerable success. A secondary objective of probe was always the stimulation of competition in non-metropolitan areas."

Telecom's spokesman John Goulter says Telecom isn't specifically targeting schools in its competitors' regions but has been offering School Zone for some time now.

"It started in Otago a couple of years ago, before Probe began."

School Zone is a broadband package that includes a managed internet access service, video conferencing facilities, security and a number of other services. Goulter says around 77 schools, totalling more than 40,000 pupils, have already signed up for the service.

"You have to remember, no Probe contracts have actually been signed yet and there is no compulsion on the schools to go with any one provider."

Woosh business development manager Ben Powles expected Telecom not to sit and wait.

"We are hearing that they're trying to sign schools up to longer term contracts."

Powles says the regional business development managers Woosh is working with are suggesting schools wait until Probe is off the ground, but he can understand them wanting to get started on any broadband rollout they can.

"Schools tend to budget one or two years out so they need to be putting things in place now."

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