East Cape presses on with broadband plan

Four months after the announcement of government grants to six regions towards developing a broadband telecommunications infrastructure, East Cape has rolled out its plan of action.

Four months after the announcement of government grants to six regions towards developing a broadband telecommunications infrastructure, East Cape has rolled out its plan of action.

The area’s broadband promoters finalised their formal application for East Cape’s $50,000 share of the grant last week, and are expecting government authorisation within a week or two, says the coordinator of Gisborne’s regional development taskforce, Graham Smith.

The money will go towards a “needs analysis”, identifying the various people and bodies who would be keen to use broadband, and for what purposes they will want to use it.

Formal government commitment to the grant was given at the beginning of this month, says the council’s economic development officer, Rick Mansell, but a final contract was set to be signed last week.

This will name a body to co-ordinate the effort, which will probably be the Gisborne District Council, Smith says.

A gaggle of sources have already come to the party in providing or enhancing digital telecommunications capacity for the Gisborne district’s schools, including government, TVNZ communications subsidiary BCL and the foundation started by The Warehouse chief Stephen Tindall. Ironically, says Mansell, involvement of many parties has presented compatibility problems, which technicians are currently sorting out.

But the need clearly goes wider than the schools and broadband is a key factor in attracting business to the region, Mansell says. “No [business] will move here if you can’t offer them the right infrastructure, whether it’s roading or telecommunications.”

The needs analysis and strategy is expected to be complete by May and the broadband steering group will then be ready to invite proposals. BCL already has equipment in the region and Walker Wireless has expressed interest, Smith says.

IT Minister Paul Swain was scheduled to visit East Cape at the end of last month, but the trip was cancelled on a Ministry of Economic Development official’s advice that the region was not at an advanced enough stage in its plans for a visit to be appropriate. Mansell agrees with this judgement.

East Cape has taken longer than other regions to apply for the funding and embark on its broadband planning exercise because of other priorities such as the larger regional development plan, Smith says. Mansell suggests the delay is not significant.

This week Swain will receive an update on a South Island broadband scheme in Dunedin.

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