Positive news came out for small town New Zealand last week. The government is investing $300 million to expand the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) programme to an additional 151 towns across New Zealand, plus 43 suburban fringe areas around the larger centres which were covered by the first phase of the programme. The good news is that Okato and Opunake are included in the latest plans for extending ultrafast broadband.
Connectivity has become an essential part of modern life. High quality internet makes a difference to the way we run our local businesses, with access to the digital economy and greater commercial opportunities. In schools, students and teachers can benefit from online learning resources, and explore innovative approaches to teaching and learning.
And it brings convenience and efficiency to our everyday lives.
The Government recognises the role of high quality internet in driving economic and social growth. We are working hard to deliver the best possible telecommunications infrastructure to all New Zealanders. Rolling out faster, more reliable internet is a vital part of our plan in developing a productive and competitive economy, improving health and educational outcomes and creating more jobs for Kiwis and their families.
By the end of 2024, approximately 85 per cent of New Zealanders will have access to fibre, far exceeding our original target of 80 per cent by 2022. This will put New Zealand among the leaders in the OECD for access to fibre.
The government investment to get Urenui, Waitara, Inglewood, Okato, Opunake, Manaia, Eltham, Stratford and Patea connected up is just under four million dollars. Out of that list of towns, Opunake with its 1,300 residents will get its ultrafast connections completed first, over the next couple of years, with over 23,000 more residents in Taranaki benefiting from this.
Through this phase 2 programme, the total number who can have access to ultrafast broadband will increase by another 423,000 people across 151 towns.
The second phase of UFB installations will start in 2017 and be completed between 2018 and 2024. Phase two of the build will see each build area be completed within a 12 month period in order to provide as little disruption as possible.
Phase one of UFB has already brought fibre access to over one million households and businesses in 38 towns and cities across New Zealand. The level of UFB uptake is at 30 per cent, with over 300,000 connections.
The Government is ensuring more of our local businesses, schools, hospitals, and rural communities will be able to take advantage of a faster and more reliable broadband network, and the opportunities it provides.
Regarding the Broadband Initiative (RBI), a Request for Proposals was issued in October last year, to extend the Rural and provide mobile coverage to black spots on state highways and in tourist areas.
Around 293,000 rural New Zealanders are accessing better broadband under the first phase of our RBI programme. Under the RBI Extension, improved broadband will be delivered to communities unable to access broadband speeds of at least 20 Megabits per second. The Mobile Black Spot Fund will improve the availability of mobile services to areas which do not have coverage from any mobile operator. A long list of State Highway and tourism locations has been identified that the Government is interested in seeing proposals for.