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Coromandel towns make Government's long UFB list

03 Sep 15

Five Coromandel towns have made the Government’s list of potential towns to receive funding for ultra-fast broadband, the Thames Coromandel District Council has confirmed.

The Government has revealed its list of more than 110 towns around New Zealand that might qualify for some of the $210 million in extra funding it announced in March to expand the fibre-optic cable network that carries ultra-fast broadband (UFB).

Thames and Whitianga have been under consideration since the UFB1 initiative was announced several years ago, the council says.

The Government added Coromandel Town, Whangamata and Tairua to the list of towns that could receive some the $210m after the council submitted its Registration of Interest in July, as part of the bidding process for UFB2 funding.

This means the top five population centres with more than 1,200 residents on the Coromandel are on the list.

Communications Minister Amy Adams made the announcement on Tuesday as she released a request for proposals in the next stage of the Government's Ultra-Fast Broadband 2 (UFB2) initiative.

"While the list of eligible towns is still very long, it's great to see that we're still in the hunt and that Whangamata, Coromandel Town and Tairua have been included," says Deputy Mayor Peter French.

Adams says the long list was based on current and projected population. Not all towns on the list will necessarily receive funding, she says.

Also under consideration are what the Government calls fringe areas of major metropolitan centres. This means there is tough competition for limited funding.

The request for proposals that Adams announced was a call for telecoms companies to submit bids to expand the fibre network.

The Government's Crown Fibre Holdings will assess the bids, town-by-town, on a commercial basis and then create a short list of towns that might qualify for UFB2 funding.

Commercial negotiations will then be held with prospective build partners and contracts are expected to be signed in the first half of 2016, with the build beginning shortly after that.

The next step for the council is to submit a Digital Enablement Plan in the next couple of weeks that details how it and the Coromandel community would maximise any expanded fibre network.

Rural Broadband Initiative

The council says communities outside of its district's main townships need not worry about missing out on fast broadband.

At the same time as it announced UFB2 in March, the Government also announced a second phase of its Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) and a Mobile Black Spots Fund (MBSF).

The Government says it wants to determine which towns qualify for UFB2 before it designs RBI2. The Government promises there will be separate tenders for the RBI2 and MBSF initiatives in due course.

In the meantime, the Thames Coromandel District Council says it is not standing still on the broadband front.

The council recently provided a grant of $15,000 to St John to work with wireless internet provider Lightwire to upgrade the fibre connection to the Thames St John station. This will improve St John's emergency response capabilities and allow Lightwire to build a wireless broadband network for central Thames based on a small tower it will install on the roof of the St John station.

Once the work is complete - expected later this year - faster wireless internet speeds will be available to residents and businesses in central Thames within range of the Lightwire tower, the council explains.

“We've also been working with Chorus to advance upgrades to fibre-fed telecoms cabinets around the District,” it says.

The improved capacity of these cabinets allows much higher internet speeds to people and businesses over existing copper telephone lines.

Two in Kopu have recently been upgraded, as well as others in Kuaotunu and at the conjunction of Hahei and Hot Water Beach.

“And, we've been working with Vodafone to upgrade existing mobile phone towers or build new ones that can carry wireless broadband and improved mobile phone signals in more rural areas,” the council adds.

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