Schools in smaller Otago towns will have their own videoconferencing-capable broadband intranet within the next month, just in time for the start of the new term.
The Otago Community Trust is forging ahead in its collaboration with Telecom to get the JetStream DSL service introduced to smaller Otago towns. All exchanges in the first rank of towns, that is those with an area school or high school, have now been equipped with the capacity to handle JetStream, says trust spokesman Keith Elwood.
In most of these towns, the likes of Oamaru, Kurow, Palmerston, Alexandra and Balclutha, users other than the schools should be able to get JetStream service. The scheme is based on the trust underwriting what Telecom judged to be the economic number of 30 users per town. “If we can find 30 users in each town, we’ll get that underwritten sum [$235,000] back,” says Elwood.
But the trust may not leave the account balanced, but use the money again to equip more out-of-the-way places, he says.
In smaller towns of the first clutch, Owaka, Roxborough, Lawrence and Ranfurly, the service will be handled with frame relay rather than DSL, will be half the capacity (256Kbit/s as against 512Kbit/s) and will go to the schools only, as there is no credible business case for servicing the wider population.
A second phase will see the service extended to smaller towns with a primary school. This will involve a fresh round of discussion with Telecom and at least one competitor. This is likely to be BCL, which was Telecom’s rival in the bidding for the first phase.
There is still a problem with settlements more than 7km outside the designated towns.
“The hard-to-get-to places continue to be an issue,” Elwood says. “The cost is too high and there won’t be enough users. We’d like to go to the end of the line, but it might not be practicable.”