'Catchy' broadband announcement expected

The government will next month announce a broadband telecommunications initiative.

The government will next month announce a broadband telecommunications initiative.

IT and telecomms minister Paul Swain, who calls the roll out of broadband internet access his “number one priority”, has been signalling that government moves are afoot.

He told a CIO audience in Auckland this month that “bold targets” are needed to accelerate the spread of broadband services beyond the main centres, and that more would be said on the subject next month.

“We’re trying to think of something more catchy than ‘broadband rollout’ as a name for the initiative,” Swain says.

Swain told the Auckland audience that broadband availability was critical.

“Broadband is the critical issue. Every other country is struggling with it except Singapore.” Singapore has the advantage of its compact size, he says.

“We’re trying to determine the role for government in this; we don’t have the money to do a rollout.”

He doesn’t believe the answer is to be found by forcing Telecom to open up access to the local loop.

Swain says he doesn’t want the soon-to-be-appointed telecommunications commissioner to become bogged down in the local loop unbundling issue on taking up the role, but he doesn’t rule out reviving it at a later date.

“I’d like to get the commissioner’s role established first.”

The minister says the advice he’s had from countries that have gone ahead with unbundling is that New Zealand should wait.

“The Irish told me to wait until others had done it successfully.”

He says broadband rollout options should not be confined to copper wire, as implied by calls for unbundling. Other technologies that might be deployed are wireless, optical fibre and satellite connections, he says.

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