Spark is to offer families with school-aged children unable to afford a commercial broadband service a 30GB ‘no-frills’ broadband service for $15 per month, about 25 percent the price of the cheapest commercial services available.
The service, Spark Jump, is prepaid, has no fixed-term contract and includes a modem. It is provided by fixed wireless link using capacity on Spark’s 4G network and the broadband platform of Spark subsidiary, Skinny Mobile.
Spark said it hoped to make Spark Jump available to at least 5,000 families over the coming 12 months and was looking to collaborate with government agencies and community groups to scale to higher volumes.
According to the 2013 NZ Census, there were 62,000 households with school-aged children which said they did not have home broadband (or which did not specify whether they had broadband).
“This technology has only been available in New Zealand since mid-2015 and a team from Spark, Skinny and Huawei has been working to develop a heavily subsidised solution,” Spark said. The new service has been piloted over recent months with families in Christchurch and Auckland.
Spark Jump will be administered by Spark Foundation, the registered charity funded by Spark and governed independently by a board of trustees. Spark Foundation will partner with local community-based organisations that will identify and refer eligible families. The service it will be distributed exclusively through these community partners to nominated families of school-aged children.
Spark Foundation chair, Nick Leggett, said learnings from the foundation’s four-year partnership with digital learning pioneer the Manaiakalani Education Trust led to the development of Spark Jump.
Spark Jump was developed through a three-month, small-scale trial with families of Hornby High School and the Ako Hiko school cluster in Mt Roskill, Auckland.
Spark said: “The trials have led to a better understanding of broadband needs of families and improvement in the product such as increasing the data allowance from 20GB to 30GB and streamlining the user experience for families who have limited experience with technology.”Spark said it would work with community partners to expand the initiative across the country. “The Greater Christchurch Schools Network, Web Access Waikato Trust and 20/20 Trust will be three of the first partners working with Spark to establish processes and a collaborative model. Spark is also exploring partnership opportunities with the Ministry of Education's Communities of Learning programme.”