Mike Smith said WISPA members are welcoming the injection of funds to improve rural broadband speeds.
The Government’s latest tranche of funds for rural broadband is giving some wireless operators the opportunity to make the leap into providing fibre for rural customers.
Digital Economy and Communications Minister David Clark has announced an additional $47 million of contracts have been issued to 13 contracted internet providers, with funding aimed specifically at upgrading rural cell towers, expanding fibre and improving wireless coverage.
The funding is part of the Government’s covid response and recovery funding.
Of the 13 providers already signed up, 11 are wireless operators spread evenly across provincial New Zealand.
For AmuriNet founder Chris Roberts of North Canterbury, securing a contract through the funding provides a kickstart to his business’ fledgling fibre service.
“It will be covering semi-rural areas initially in the district of Mandeville-Ohoka and should be able to reach about 650 households and businesses. Fibre is an area we have always wanted to move into,” Robert said.
“Fibre in rural (areas) is more expensive to establish than urban, simply because the cost is dependent on the distance between houses and businesses being hooked up.”
In Tarawhiti, Gisborne Net will also be stepping into the fibre network as a first-time provider.
In Taranaki, Matt Harrison, of Primo wireless internet provider, said his operation can also now lift its capacity to rural users.
Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) spokesperson Mike Smith said the providers are welcoming the recognition of the role they play in contributing to a robust, highly-connected rural internet network.
The project should increase the internet speed to 47,000 rural households by 2024.
“This initiative is a vote of confidence by government in our members being able to do the job of getting rural New Zealand connected to quality broadband,” Smith said.
He said lockdown revealed how some rural networks had trouble adapting to increased usage, and how critical the reliable internet was for people to work, learn and socialise from home.
Government is claiming that by the completion of the current initiatives in 2024, 99.8% of New Zealanders will see an improvement in their broadband services.