The New Zealand government has announced an accelerated timetable for the rollout of new rural broadband and mobile networks to help bridge the country’s digital divide. Clare Curran, the Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister, has confirmed that the Rural Broadband Initiative Phase Two (RBI2) and the Mobile Black Spot Fund (MBSF) build-outs will now be ‘substantially finished’ by the end 2021 – a full year ahead of schedule.
Curran commented: ‘New Zealanders must have access to technology as a right, regardless of income or geography and we have to close the gap between the digital “haves” and “have nots” to ensure people and communities benefit from the jobs, access and participation that a digital future brings. We are listening to feedback from businesses and from people who live in and travel to our most rural and remote areas, and they want more clarity around when their connectivity will improve. I want people to know they don’t have to wait until the end of 2022.’
Funding for the RBI2/MBSF programmes comes chiefly from the Telecommunications Development Levy (TDL), a tax paid by domestic telcos, although some of the rollouts are funded privately by the country’s three mobile operators Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees.