09 Jun 2011
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Fibre Watch: Shirty Politicians

Labour's telco maven, Claire Curran, was in the news for her dress sense this week. The Dunedin MP was sent packing from Parliament's debating chamber after being told by the speaker she needed to change out of theHighlanders rugby jersey she was wearing in support of her home province.

The top was just a little bit too much of a brand advertisement, according to speaker Lockwood Smith, and not in keeping with the "normal business attire" politicians are expected to don whilst in the chamber.

Before being given the red card, however, Curran was able to grill Communications Minister Steven Joyce on the fate of 300 schools that critics worry have fallen through the cracks in the Government’s broadband initiatives.

Not so, the minister insisted. On top of the $285 million contract awarded to Telecom and Vodafone for its Rural Broadband Initiative the Government has set aside a further $15 million to cover the cost of connecting the so-called Zone 3 rural schools.

"That will more than adequately cover the cost of linking the schools to their local cabinets with fibre, especially given that the drop costs are funded separately through the Ministry of Education," Joyce told the House.

"We had to wait to see the ultra-fast broadband footprint before we could tender to connect these schools, and the tender, I can tell the member, will be going out very shortly. Conspiracy over."

Earlier, Joyce had taken the opportunity to trumpet the Government’s progress on its ultra-fast broadband initiative, which resulted in the recent deal to award a large part of the $1.35 billion project to Telecom.

"Ultra-fast broadband is a key part of the Government's economic growth agenda. These new networks will provide an economic step change for our country as we leapfrog many of our competitors to become one of the most fibred countries in the world," he said.

"The competitive access prices that Crown Fibre Holdings has negotiated will ensure that the benefits of fibre are within easy reach of businesses as well as everyday New Zealanders."

Let's hope, for the sake of the country's economic wellbeing, that all of the above does eventuate as Joyce envisages it.

To continue the rugby theme of the day: fingers crossed our national broadband ambitions aren't ankle-tapped by a lack of vision or funding by future governments as the UFB initiative is rolled out over the next eight years.

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