Digital connectivity is more important than ever as New Zealand makes a successful economic recovery from the impacts of COVID-19, and the Labour Party is committed to investing in world class digital infrastructure to support that, Labour’s communications spokesperson Kris Faafoi says.
“The COVID pandemic has highlighted the vital role digital connectivity plays across New Zealand, including for our rural primary producing industries that link to some of New Zealand’s more remote, hard-to-reach places where internet services can be patchy,” Kris Faafoi said.
“During COVID lockdown we all needed to move online, and it is critical that our rural businesses and households have access to fast and reliable internet in order to work, learn and socialise,” he said.
Commitments Labour is making through a new $60 million infrastructure fund will help boost connectivity capacity and upgrade backhaul connections that link a main network to the edges of it. Internet services are provided to customers from the ‘edges’ of networks.
“This $60 million infrastructure fund is targeted at increasing connectivity in our worst connected regions to deliver faster, more reliable internet connections.
“The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will be responsible for leading this work and will identify the worst affected areas with a focus on Gisborne, Manawatu-Whanganui, Auckland rural area, Otago, Hawke’s Bay (including Central Hawke’s Bay), West Coast, Taranaki, rural areas of Wellington, Wairarapa, and Southland.
“This will build on the wider digital programmes we have rolled out in government and expands on the $50 million Crown Infrastructure Partners funding already announced with a priority focus on Te Tai Tokerau, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, top of the South Island and Canterbury.
“It’s about targeting regional areas where we need tailored solutions to address lack of connectivity.”
“We know there is no longer a ‘one-size-fits all’ approach and this infrastructure fund will be used to roll out investment which:
- delivers capacity upgrades
- provides backhaul upgrades and replacements (the link between the main network and the edges of the network, which is where services are provided to customers)
- enhances infrastructure in areas of need
“New Zealanders are demanding more and more data and faster speeds to run increasingly sophisticated applications and this requires higher capacity in our networks. This growing demand is already putting pressure on some areas, where existing government programmes, such as the first phase of the Rural Broadband Initiative, are no longer meeting expectations. This funding will help address that and provide a much needed further technological injection for our regions, which have fallen behind levels of connectivity in our urban areas,” Kris Faafoi said.
Labour will also commit $10 million to open up suitable radio spectrum for rural communities where broadband capacity and coverage is under pressure.
“Funding suitable spectrum to rural communities which rely on mobile network services, will mean those services can reach greater coverage,” Kris Faafoi said.
“In this day and age, we need to do everything we can to make sure rural and remote communities in New Zealand are part of the connected digital world we all live in now,” Kris Faafoi said.