The New Zealand government has announced that it has selected its preferred providers for the final batch of Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) contracts, with the latest set of deals worth around NZD14.4 million (USD11.8 million). The contracts cover fibre-optic deployments at 193 provincial schools, 183 rural public libraries, 37 hospitals in remote areas and ten health centres. In addition, 57 remote schools will be upgraded to enable access to faster broadband, meaning that they are capable of being utilised by the ‘Network for Learning’ scheme. Communications and IT minister Amy Adams said that the announcement signals the second and final phase of the government’s NZD300 million RBI project.
Chorus, the network infrastructure arm of Telecom New Zealand, and Network Tasman have been selected to oversee the rural rollout, after being handed contracts worth a combined NZD12 million. For its part, Network Tasman will focus on the rollout in Wakefield, Mapua, Motueka and Picton. A further NZD2.4 million has been awarded to connect the aforementioned 57 remote schools and their surrounding communities with wireless broadband. Inspire.net, Gisborne.net, Chorus and Araneo have been selected to do take charge of these deployments. In addition, the government reasserted previously-announced plans to award a special grant to improve telecoms services on the Chatham Islands, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean; all three schools there will receive enhanced satellite broadband as a result of the grant.
Adams commented: ‘The government promised that no school would miss out on faster broadband and I am delighted that we are delivering on that promise. While good progress has been made in major cities upgrading broadband availability, I have long advocated the need to bring faster broadband and better connectivity to rural communities. I am equally convinced of the benefits it will bring to other sectors of our economy and society. Ensuring rural New Zealand is well connected with the latest technology is a key part of the government’s push to lift productivity and global competitiveness and to drive economic growth that benefits all New Zealanders’.