The Far North Development Trust has chosen the supplier of broadband communications services to the region, and it’s another win for Walker Wireless and Vodafone.
The Walker Wireless-Vodafone partnership is already engaged to provide broadband to Southland and Wairarapa.
The three districts went out on their own, pitching aggregations of broadband demand to telcos before the government came in with its 14 regional and one national group of projects under the Probe scheme.
Probe is directed purely at giving schools broadband access, while the Northland, Warirarapa and Southland projects have a broader range of community needs in view. The three region's schemes will access Probe funding for the schools part of their projects. Other needs can be met through council funding, borrowing, or including in charges to some of the early successful users an element of contribution to funds to serve longer-term aims, says Far North Development Trust spokesman Chris Mathews. The exact combination of these techniques has not been decided yet.
Mathews says Walker and Vodafone offered the best deal on coverage, with equitable affordable pricing throughout the community. Future scalability is also important, he says.
As well as providing internet access, the planned network will mean free telephone calls between users, with the whole range of the network being a local calling area. Under the Telecom network, Northland has had some of the smallest local calling areas in the country.
Early uses of broadband in the far north are likely to be in improved access to government services from health and education through to rating of property.
Mathews points to an existing collaboration between Middlemore Hospital, GPs and service providers on the management of diabetes patients, which has had encouraging results such as less frequent visits to the doctor. A similar sceme could be set up in Northland under the auspices of health service organisation Orion.
Broadband could similarly allow Quotable Value NZ to exchange information on its central database with that on regional databases for a more efficient and consistent measurement of rateable value on properties.
Northland, Southland and Wairarapa have "cooperated very closely" on their development of their broadband plans, says Mathews, but the selection of Walker and Vodafone as providers to Northland was entirely independent of the other two choosing the same solution, he says.
"Their choice was not a factor in the decision, but it's fortunate."