The Government’s rural broadband initiative isn’t up to scratch according to the Labour Party, who says its failures in the region are prompting an outcry.
Labour’s ICT spokesperson Clare Curran says local mayors, councils, Fonterra, Federated Farmers as well as National MPs are slamming the RBI scheme.
“Rural New Zealand is being left behind in the broadband race. The figures from council surveys are truly astonishing,” says Curran.
“In Huntly, household internet access is 44%. In Western Bay of Plenty, 72% say it’s not fast enough or reliable enough for their needs. In Kaitaia, internet penetration is just 49%. The data for Ruapehu is too unreliable as many people could not even load the test,” she explains.
According to Curran, only 14%of people in Northland are satisfied with their internet with one person saying they couldn’t even load the NZ Herald website.
“As the Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher says: ‘Internet speed in these areas is woefully inadequate… This situation is a barrier to economic growth and creates an irrational digital divide between our central business district and productive rural area’,” notes Curran.
“Even National’s Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean says: ‘Some rural schools have little to no access via modern communication systems. I say little to no, as like their neighbours, if they climb a platform, stand on one leg and hold their mobile high enough they may, just may, receive a level one signal.’
“And National’s Todd Barclay says: ‘internet connections are slow and unreliable, and directly impact their ability to run their businesses’,” Curran adds.
“Federated Farmers has complained about poor service in their Taranaki heartland and Fonterra has said poor internet speed constrains the ability of staff to work remotely and attract talent to remote towns or locations,” she explains.
“This is simply not good enough. Over $300 million has been spent on the RBI so far and the next $100 million is being delayed until the never-never. It’s time Amy Adams stood up for regional New Zealand,” Curran says.