IT Minister Paul Swain says TVNZ transmission arm BCL should get on and sign access agreements with potential telecommunications partners.
Swain is keen for that to happen even though BCL’s future structure is still being sorted out. “I want to see access agreements with people who want to hang [equipment] off its towers,” he says.
One such agreement has already been reached between the state-owned company and Vodafone, enabling the Southland town of Tuatapere to get 128Kbit/s internet access at the local high school.
“A number of people, including Walker Wireless, are looking at getting into partnership with it,” he says. “I have been talking to BCL about the important part it might play in New Zealand’s broadband rollout.”
The complication at present is that BCL is in the process of being taken out from under TVNZ’s wing and being turned into a “crown operating company”. Swain doesn’t want that to hold up access agreements.
The minister says an issue BCL needs to resolve is whether it has a future as a telco or as a “carriers’ carrier”. He says that’s for the new company’s board to decide.
Broadband has suddenly become top of Swain’s telecomms agenda, he told an audience of CIOs in Auckland last week. “If we can’t get broadband access around New Zealand, our [economic] problems will be compounded. 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.”
The first step is setting targets, according to Swain. He says he’ll be making an announcement next month on a government broadband plan.
“We’re trying to think of something more catchy as a name for the initiative than ‘broadband rollout’.”