New connectivity funding for more rural homes and businesses

Digital Economy and Communications

More New Zealand homes, businesses and communities will soon benefit from fast and reliable connectivity, regardless of where they live, study and work,” Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, David Clark said today.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us time and again how critical a reliable connection is for learning, working and socialising at home,” David Clark said.

“At the 2020 election, we promised a $60 million fund to boost connectivity in some of New Zealand’s hardest to reach locations and we are delivering on that commitment.

“For rural businesses, a reliable connection affords them the opportunity to be more innovative and productive. This is exactly what we need as we go about securing an economic recovery for the country.

“We are currently working towards having 99.8% of the population able to access new, or improved broadband by the end of next year.

“Today, I’m pleased to announce how the $60 million allocated through Budget 2022, will be used to further improve rural connectivity over the next few years.

“$43 million will be used to improve network capacity and speeds where rural users have been experiencing slow broadband. This includes, but is not limited to, settlements in the Far North, Gisborne, Manawatu-Whanganui region, Taranaki, Southland and the Waikato.

“Taken together with the Rural Capacity Upgrades I announced in February, the Government has now allocated over $90 million towards upgrading the capacity of rural networks, to be rolled out over the next three years.

“Tens of thousands of rural residents stand to benefit from this combined investment. This is over and above those already receiving improved broadband through the existing Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2, which has another year to run. 

“In addition, $15 million of the Budget-allocated funding will go towards a new initiative called the Remote Users Scheme. This scheme will aim to provide broadband services to New Zealanders in some of the country’s most remote locations – those who right now have no coverage, or only have voice calling and text messaging services.

“Work is underway to finalise the details of this new scheme, and it is my intention to launch the Remote Users Scheme later this year.

“This new funding also includes provision for an additional $2 million to be spent on extending the successful Marae Digital Connectivity initiative for up to two years. The additional funding will allow for more eligible marae to benefit.

“More than 560 marae have been connected through this initiative so far, with most of them located in rural areas, serving as hubs for their communities. I look forward to seeing more marae connected in the coming months,” David Clark said.