National’s Communications and Information Technology spokeswoman, Amy Adams, has announced a re-elected National-led Government will establish a new $150 million fund to extend the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI).
Adams made the announcement in Greymouth with Prime Minister and National Party Leader John Key.
“The RBI is making an immense difference to the way our rural firms do business, the way our kids learn and the way our health services deliver to us as patients,” Adams says.
“Already, nearly 250,000 households and businesses have access to faster broadband under the RBI. However, National wants to see more rural homes and businesses benefit from faster, more reliable internet.
“Therefore, if re-elected, we will legislate a three-year extension of the current Telecommunications Development Levy of $50 million a year to create a new $150 million extension of the Rural Broadband Initiative.
"The levy is currently set at $50 million a year until June 2016, and will now be extended at $50 million a year until June 2019."
Of that $150 million, Adams says National will make $100 million available through a contestable fund for communities to improve their connectivity through fixed broadband to homes and businesses.
"We expect communities, councils and service providers will bid into the fund," she adds.
“The criteria for the fund will focus on enhancing connectivity across areas outside the Ultra-Fast Broadband footprint.
“This extension will mean a greater number of rural New Zealanders will be able to improve their connectivity.”
In addition to improving broadband in rural areas, National will also create a $50 million fund to extend mobile coverage in the more remote parts of New Zealand, and fill black spots on main highways and in key tourist areas.
“State Highway 6, which runs along a significant proportion of the West Coast, would be a top candidate for this fund. So would State Highway 73, the main route between Christchurch and the West Coast," Adams adds.
"Both are major tourist routes and improvements to mobile coverage would be welcome.
“Mobile phone coverage is an essential form of connectivity, and can be even more important in our rural and remote towns, where it has benefits from a public safety perspective.
“Boosting mobile phone coverage also has the ability to help grow productivity in our regions.
“This is part of National’s programme to deliver world-class connectivity to drive innovation, create jobs and grow New Zealand’s economy.”
Adams says the Telecommunications Development Levy was set up primarily to provide higher-quality broadband and internet connectivity for rural New Zealanders - the levy is paid for by large telecommunication providers.
“The levy means more New Zealanders – particularly those in rural and remote areas – can stay connected to the rest of the world," she adds.
"It has funded the creation of the $300 million Rural Broadband Initiative, along with other projects like the relay service for the deaf and hearing impaired.
"Its extension will allow further major improvements in rural broadband to the benefit of all New Zealanders."