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Broadband and cellphone coverage in Northland underwhelming

23 Jun 15

Broadband and cellphone coverage in Northland is underwhelming, with a new survey revealing Northlanders are keen to get the benefits of better telecommunications infrastructure. 

A recent survey was undertaken as part of Northland’s bid for a share of up to $360 million in government funding to extend high speed broadband and improve cellphone coverage.

Regional economic development agency Northland Inc is co-ordinating a Northland-wide response, on behalf of the region’s four councils and in partnership with Maori, to the government’s call for interest in being part of the next stage of the high-speed broadband rollout. The rollout’s objective is to bring broadband to 80% of New Zealanders.

Nearly 1500 people responded to the survey, with nearly 70% of respondents indicating that that they use their internet connection for business (among other uses).

In Northland, the funding has the potential to accelerate the delivery of ultrafast broadband to more towns and faster broadband to rural areas, as well as improving mobile coverage along State Highways and in popular tourist areas to reduce black spots.

“The responses to the survey have provided us with some great information, and the collaboration that is taking place between the four councils and iwi is exactly what the government is wanting to see,” David Wilson, Northland Inc CEO, says. 

Wilson says the results of the survey will be incorporated into Northland’s registration of interest, which needs to be submitted to the government by 3 July.

“Better broadband services and mobile coverage will open up new opportunities for communities and businesses alike, and from what we’re hearing, there is significant ground to be made up in Northland,” he says.

Northlanders who responded to the survey said they currently access the internet via a range of means, from ultrafast broadband to broadband via a phone line, satellite or wireless, and others using dialup. More than 6% relied on options such as mobile phones, libraries or friends’ houses for their access.

Less than 14% of respondents said they were generally satisfied with their current internet service, with the key problems being speed and reliability.

Many reported that the slow speed of their internet service caused frustration when downloading files, watching videos or making Skype calls. Businesses also noted that slow broadband hampered productivity and that they often encountered difficulties when attempting to access some services, such as cloud-based services, or using applications such as teleconferencing or online data sharing.

More than a third of respondents said they would be willing to pay more for better broadband, with an additional $20 a month being the most popular option. However, many also noted that they did not view their current service as being good value for money.

About three-quarters of respondents (77%) were aware of cellphone blackspots in their locality.

Wilson adds that one of the next steps for Northland is a digital enablement plan, which will identify the many ways in which Northlanders can take advantage of the future infrastructure and maximise the benefits brought by the government’s investment. 

The digital enablement plan is under development and due to be completed by mid-September.

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