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Govt paper pushes case for fibre connectivity in rural NZ

Chorus has welcomed the New Zealand Government's release of a new paper that sets out the country's high-level connectivity vision over the next decade.

The Government's paper, Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa, highlights the necessity for a long-term and comprehensive approach to providing, supporting and enabling infrastructure, as well as the need to offer enduring solutions capable of meeting the future growth in demand for greater speed and capacity.

JB Rousselot, Chief Executive at Chorus, says rural households currently outside the UFB footprint should be encouraged by the Government paper released today.

"There's a growing demand for unconstrained, high-capacity broadband and a renewed case to take fibre further and reach many of the predominately rural homes and businesses not yet covered," he says.

"It is heartening that the Government not only recognises this demand but now has identified some key principles to support the further rollout of fibre."

The Government paper comes after a recent NZIER report on rural connectivity, which noted the potential for rural households and enterprises to see benefits totalling $16.5 billion over the next decade if they had access to the same digital connectivity as those within urban areas.

The NZIER report, Rural Connectivity: Economic Benefits of closing the rural digital divide, also puts forth the concept of 'digital parity' and estimates the economic benefits that flow from rural households and businesses having parity with urban.

Rural households were anticipated to benefit by approximately $6,500 per year, coming from better access to broader employment opportunities and the ability to use telehealth services in conjunction with online transactions with government agencies and banks.

"We have seen enormous growth on our network in the past few years, with average usage over 500GB per month and 15% of users now using over a terabyte," Rousselot notes.

"If New Zealand is to meet the Government's stated goal of New Zealand being in the top 20% of OECD nations [with] respect to international connectivity measures, then we'll need to ensure we're growing our fibre footprint so that rural users aren't left behind.

"Fibre has an important role in rural connectivity not just where it enables fibre to the home, but in terms of supporting higher speeds on other rural technologies like wireless and mobile connectivity."

Chorus will complete its work on the Ultra Fast Broadband programme later this month, resulting in fibre access for 87% of New Zealanders.

"It has been a remarkable effort to get to 87% but it is not job done. The 13% left (650,000 New Zealanders) includes many homes and businesses on the outskirts of our towns and cities, who deserve digital parity. They cannot be left behind."

The Government also acknowledges in the paper that in considering the support of connectivity, it will prioritise environmentally-friendly proposals and increase the ability to work and access services remotely or from home.

Additional research commissioned by Chorus, Enable, Tuatahi First Fibre and Northpower in 2021 indicated that the emissions profile of fibre is consistent, even with speeds increasing, while the emissions for alternative technologies grow with speed.

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