Accelerated timetable for rural broadband and mobile coverage

Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Clare Curran has announced an accelerated timetable for the rollout of new rural broadband and mobile networks to help close the digital divides in New Zealand.

The Rural Broadband Initiative Phase Two (RBI2) and the Mobile Black Spot Fund (MBSF) builds were due for completion by the end of 2022 however the new schedule aims to have them substantially finished by the end of 2021 – a year earlier than previously planned.

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,” said Clare Curran.

“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.’

The deployment schedule and coverage information for RBI2 is now available on the National Broadband Map www.broadbandmap.nz.

“An address checker is available on the map where you can type in your address to see if and when you will receive RBI2 broadband coverage. This will show both planned and actual coverage, and give an indication of the timing for planned coverage,” Ms Curran said.

“The company providing service in your area is listed on the Availability Report when you search your address.

“Funding for the RBI2/MBSF programme comes mainly from the Telecommunications Development Levy (TDL), a levy paid by telcos, with some of the programme funded privately by the three mobile operators Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees.

“Funding for a $105 million RBI2/MBSF expansion comes from Crown Infrastructure Partners’ funds and announcements will be made in the coming months on the outcome of the RBI2/MBSF expansion process, which is currently underway.

“There will be additional resources for rural communities not covered by these programmes to apply for under the $1 billion Provincial Growth Fund announced by my colleague Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones.

“Four regions – Tairāwhiti/East Coast, Tai Tokerau/Northland, the West Coast, and Manawatū-Whanganui – were targeted for increased investment through a Provincial Growth Fund ‘surge’ effort and they also overlap with work on delivering faster broadband to rural and remote communities through RBI2. 

“There is enormous untapped potential in our provinces – we have businesses with ideas and ambitions but they need infrastructure like high-speed broadband to compete equally in our 21st century economy. We want to let them know we are supporting them, and to let them know what’s coming down the line.

“The basis of a digital economy is universal access to efficient and cost effective broadband for all corners and communities in New Zealand.  This government intends to grow ICT to be the second largest contributor to GDP by 2025 so we have to start the work now to close the digital divides.

Attached is information about the total RBI2 and MBSF build, by region; and the MBSF tourism and state highway priority areas and completion dates.

Background:

  • There are two categories for coverage under the MBSF: state highways and tourist locations.
  • For highways, the top priority is to deliver coverage to the longest black spots, black spots with the highest traffic volumes, and those with the highest vehicle crash rates.
  • The MBSF is providing mobile coverage to approximately 1,000 kilometres of state highway and in over 100 tourism locations where no mobile coverage currently exists.
  • RBI2 will deliver faster broadband to regions which have the lowest rates of access – where users cannot get download speeds of 20 Megabits per second or faster. 
  • Crown Infrastructure Partners is managing the contractual arrangements for the RBI2 and MBSF programmes, and has entered into contracts with the Rural Connectivity Group (Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees) and with a number of Wireless Internet Service Providers to deliver the programmes.
  • Those mobile black spot and RBI2 end users not covered in the first round of contracting are now under consideration in the expansion phase, which is underway with bidders.