07 Apr 2010
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A design comp for national bb network?

A public competition to design a national broadband network - that's what Chris O'Connell, outgoing chair of TUANZ, would like to have seen.

“Having a design competition is not uncommon in the world ofreal architecture for big public buildings and there are a lot of people withgood ideas,” he says.

O’Connell (pictured) made the suggestion during a discussionabout how best to roll out national broadband infrastructure.

He says thatgovernments, and the officials that enact their policies, tend to favourpresenting solutions, rather than first seeking input from key stakeholders.

“I suspect that they’ve always been scared of asking becausethe answers that they get may not fit with the official programme,” O’Connellsays. “The only interesting thing is that the geeks going on and on aboutfibre, as we did for years, did finally get through in what’s come through inthe UFB (Ultra Fast Broadband network) but even then it’s quite convolutedwhat’s ended up occurring,” O’Connell says.

Agencies such as the Ministry of Economic Development issuepapers on how the money is to be spent without first asking user groups such asTUANZ and other stakeholders what it is they want in a fast broadband network. “Then they wonder why they have to keep coming back and re-spending the money,”he says.

O’Connell cites the Rural Broadband proposal as the latestexample. He describes the plan to roll out fibre networks to rural schools,which will then act as connectivity hubs, as “Probe 2”. Rural Women had similarconcerns in its submission, prompting ICT Minister Steven Joyce to modify theproposal to ensure that better connectivity for rural households is givengreater emphasis. But O’Connell pointsout that there is little in the strategy for local providers already offeringrural communities broadband services.

O’Connell’s solution? Put up $10 million as a prize for adesign competition that posed the question: “What’s the way to come up with thefastest broadband for New Zealand?”

It’s probably too late for the urban network. Crown FibreHoldings, the body charged with administering the $1.5 billion for the UFB, isup and running and expects to select partners by June this year.

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