The South Waikato District Council (SWDC) has given the green light to the expansion of its broadband wireless project.
At its budget meeting last week the council earmarked $750,000 for the project, which will make high-speed wireless internet available to about 95% of the population in the district.
The project will proceed regardless of whether the district receives any Project Probe funding, says SWDC mayor Gordon Blake. Probe is a government initiative aimed at bringing broadband internet access to schools and provincial areas.
“We’ll continue rolling out what we have got,” Blake says. “We know we do qualify for Probe. The government just keeps delaying and delaying, and we can’t just sit on our hands.”
A corporate structure will be set up to manage the network, which should be self-funding, Blake says. “We’re basically acting as guarantor.”
Economic development manager Noel Ferguson says the expansion of the data network should be complete by Christmas, starting with business areas.
“We’ll be doing it in a relatively orderly manner, with a focus on the biggest bang for the buck.”
Some opposition had been expected from ratepayers, but Ferguson says the project should pay for itself in six months.
“It’s not a large investment. We spent more on a bridge last year than we did on the broadband project.”
Further services, such as toll-free phone calls, are planned to follow. “We’re going to still do it in stages,” Ferguson says. “When we deem that the time is right we’ll turn on the voice side of things.”
Ferguson says Probe funding would be welcome, but the district would not wait for the government to act. “That’s what local government is supposed to do -- look after the interests of local people,” he says.
“If [Probe funding] turns up it would be wonderful, but I’m still waiting to see Santa too.”