Electric fence problem to be tackled

Electric fences have been held up as a major problem for rural internet users, but a new government working group is hoping to educate farmers about the best way to avoid the problem.

Electric fences have been held up as a major problem for rural internet users, but a new government working group is hoping to educate farmers about the best way to avoid the problem.

New Zealand has one of the highest incidences of electric fences in the world and Telecom has pointed to poorly maintained or installed fences as a source of interference for its copper-based phone lines. This has lead to a large number of farmers complaining about not being able to take part in the knowledge economy.

Communications minister Paul Swain and rural affairs minister Jim Sutton have announced an 18-month plan of action to prepare guidelines for electric fence design and operation; introduce guidelines on the best modems to use in such "noisy" environments; mount a public awareness campaign and educate farmers on how to make the best out of a bad situation.

"We are confident this plan of action will help improve the speed and reach of internet access in rural areas where electric fence interference is a problem," say the ministers in a written statement.

Telecom says it will work closely with farmers and the working group to try to eradicate the problem.

"One of the problems is the lack of awareness amongst rural communities about how much electric fences can disrupt telecommunications services,” says Telecom's general manager of government relations Bruce Parkes.

“A recent case in point is in the Balfour region, Southland where about 1000 customers had their telecommunications services severely disrupted because of electric fence interference."

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