The Government has committed to ensuring rural homes in New Zealand have access to Ultra-Fast Broadband and the nation's major rural health group is happy about it.
The Rural Health Alliance of Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) is pleased with the Government's announcement that it will invest $270 million to roll out Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) to 190 more small towns and extend rural broadband to another 74,000 households and businesses.
However, the Alliance wants reassurance that there will not be any extra costs to these towns to subsidise the high costs for rural connections.
The pledged support will provide important coverage to remote parts of the country, including State Highway 1 in Northland and SH6 on the West Coast, says RHAANZ.
RHAANZ chair Martin London says the Alliance is keen to see the Government continue focusing on providing broadband in rural areas where Kiwis help contribute so much to the nation's economy.
Rural New Zealand is home to at least 600,000 people and is an important constituency from an economic and political perspective.
Agriculture and tourism are the powerhouses of the economy and more than two and a half million tourists visit rural New Zealand each year, adds London. In 2011-2012, $40 billion, or 19% of GDP, was generated directly or indirectly by the agri-food sector.
London says the fact that 87% of the New Zealand population have access fibre will continue to move us higher on the OECD table for connectivity.
“But we feel for the many thousands of rural Kiwi households still without broadband.
“When you consider the government is providing extra funding to ultrafast broadband to reach 87% of New Zealanders in 190 cities and towns by 2022, that's really heartening.
“But why should New Zealanders who don't live in cities be the last to be supported? The lives of rural New Zealanders are at risk every day because of poor connectivity and inequitable health services,” continues London.
Technology can help people in rural areas get the same access to healthcare that those living in cities have, and London says the Government needs to help remove barriers so rural people's health is considered just as important as those who live in cities.
RHAANZ has 47 national member organisations encompassing rural health providers, agribusiness groups, universities, rural community groups and local government