Broadband Challenge boosts North Shore schools

  • David Cunliffe
Communications and Information Technology

The $24 million Broadband Challenge to speed the growth of fibre networks throughout New Zealand has taken a significant step forward with the launch of the North Shore Education and Access Loop (NEAL) at Albany Primary School on Auckland's North Shore.

"Speed matters when it comes to learning and technology," Communications Minister David Cunliffe said at the launch. "This project has the potential to change the way our children learn, and bring our different schools, cultures and communities together."

Albany Primary is the first of more than 40 North Shore schools, representing over 30,000 students, expected to be linked into the high performance NEAL network.

The project is the biggest recipient to date of funding from the Broadband Challenge. North Shore City in association with Vector Communications was awarded $4,640,000 to help with a 38-kilometre extension of their existing fibre network to connect to schools, libraries and council offices.

So far, $17.6 million has been allocated from the Broadband Challenge fund, which is designed to provide seed funding to improve the availability and quality of broadband Internet access. It aims to establish a series of urban fibre networks by 2009, and to develop broadband Internet access solutions for rural and poorly served communities.

"NEAL is a great example of community, government and business working together to develop an urban fibre network that will benefit the whole North Shore region," Mr Cunliffe said.

"This network is a good example that could be a pilot for similar proposals to connect Auckland – for Auckland to be the 'world class city' we want it to be, we need an integrated urban fibre network across Auckland.

"We are part of a global environment with the world in a transitional phase, moving from an analogue to a digital world. Society, culture, work and play is undergoing the same digital transition.

"Today’s students expect digital learning opportunities that stimulate and engage them. For the most part these are beyond the resources of an individual school. However, by linking together through projects like NEAL, they are able to share resources and develop new ones collaboratively."