Rural and farming communities can look forward to better broadband after Labour pushing through an initiative to deliver broadband fibre through existing electricity networks reached a crucial stage in parliament, says Labour’s newly-appointed ICT spokesperson Clare Curran.
Ms Curran, who was named Labour’s new ICT spokesperson in Leader Andrew Little’s recent reshuffle, says her party colleagues took up the issue of delivering better broadband through the Commerce Select Committee, after Government inaction.
“Labour is helping to deliver essential broadband services for rural New Zealanders while the Government sits on its hands. We’ve created a new law to overturn government policy, to bridge the digital divide and bring enormous benefits to the regions.
“The Telecommunications (Property and other matters) Amendment Bill, which will likely pass through the rest of its stages to become law early next year, allows electricity lines companies to string broadband fibre along electricity lines, enabling immediate regional development opportunities for all of rural New Zealand.
“One of the major botch-ups under this Government’s programme is that they failed to consider the opportunities for existing fibre to schools to be made available for surrounding communities. Our bill fixes this.
“This couldn’t have happened without Labour driving this through select committee and back to Parliament. The fact the Government is sleepwalking on such an important economic issue for regional New Zealand shows the wheels are starting to fall off.
“The previous Communications Minister Amy Adams has left much unfinished business for Simon Bridges to sort out. A vital piece of law enabling fibre rollout in rural New Zealand has occurred under her nose without her involvement,” says Clare Curran.
The Telecommunications (Property and other matters) Amendment Bill originally aimed to fix the barriers experienced by people living in apartment blocks and down shared driveways experiencing long delays in connecting to the government’s ultrafast broadband programme.
The Commerce Committee found itself in the unusual situation of receiving a strong submission proposing a substantive addition to the bill, which was not driven by government policy, but instead by parts of the industry and consumer demand to extend the capacity for fibre out beyond the current UFB footprint for those providers who wanted to.
This would require a law change to allow the provision of fibre on existing electricity poles situated on private land without the need to require easements.
As this proposal was already existing Labour policy, it was very supportive and it became clear that the wider industry and rural New Zealand including Federated Farmers and Rural Women agreed that there were obvious benefits to consumers and to rural economies if fibre was able to be brought more easily to their communities.