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New Government funding for regional internet providers will speed things up for farmers battling poor rural broadband connections.

The Government has awarded $8 million, with a potential further $5 million for expansion, to nine regional wireless internet providers who help ensure that people living in some of the most isolated parts of the country get access to faster rural broadband.

All nine regional providers are members of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association of New Zealand (WISPA).

Wairarapa-based provider, WIZwireless, is one of those providers and owner and chief executive, Bridget Canning, says RBI2 has come along at a great time for regional providers.

“We’re all little owner-operators and work with the local rural communities strongly. We can make things happen, because we are small…it’s a general rule we will bend over backwards to get something into rural areas.”

The funding announcement means there is now the potential for the whole Wairarapa region to get coverage, she says.

“It’s great the Government has acknowledged us, along with the other regional providers, and the funding is available to expand and upgrade existing sites in our region.

“It’s fantastic the Government has made the commitment to get broadband into all corners of the regions.”

Canning says the improved service will give farmers the ability to go online and do anything a person living in town can do – from booking concert tickets online to banking and children being able to work from home. Dairy farmers can do daily monitoring of milk online and sheep and beef farmers can see schedules and kill sheets, for example.

Her advice to farmers?

“There is decent internet out there – talk to your local regional internet provider. Even for one farmer, we will go out and build a solar site. The price has come back hugely over the years, and RBI2 will decrease that cost again.”

What is RBI2?

The new Rural Broadband Initiative phase two (RBI2) project provides for improved rural broadband to be extended to more than 70,000 rural households and businesses.

Crown Fibre Holdings (CFH) has entered into contracts with the Rural Connectivity Group (RCG), which comprises Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees, Chorus and nine regional wireless internet service providers.

Who gets what?

  • RCG secured $250 million to build up to 450 new cellular towers to provide tourist and blackspot coverage, as well as coverage for state highways
  • Chorus secured $100 million to do an additional 190 towers called UFB2+, which is additional funding to UFB2
  • CFH is partnering with nine regional wireless internet service providers (total contract value $8 million plus up to $5 million for expansion and further contracts).
  • They are:

–          Gisborne.net (Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay)

–          Inspire.net (Manawatu and Whanganui)

–          AoNet (King Country, Manawatu and Whanganui)

–          Primo Wireless (Taranaki)

–          NZ Technology Group (Central Hawke’s Bay)

–          WIZwireless (Wairarapa and Wellington)

–          AmuriNet (North Canterbury)

–          Ultimate Broadband (Central/South Canterbury)

–          Unifone (Otago)

What will it mean?

The regional providers have committed to:

  • Speed – peak 10mbps/off peak 25mbps
  • Data – 120GB and 240GB data plans
  • Reliability – 99.9% over the whole network
  • Provide internet only, and internet and phone plans
  • Timeframe: next three years

What is WISPA-NZ?

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association of New Zealand (WISPA) was formed in January 2017 and represents WISPs providing high quality broadband in hard to reach places that national operators shy away from because of low population density and topography.

Many WISP members collaborated in putting their RBI2 bids together, recognising it would be easier for CFH to work with a significant number of WISPs, covering most of the target area, than with just one or two.

 

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