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InternetNZ welcomes government broadband plans; foreshadows independent assessment later this year

Media Release - 22 May 2008 - InternetNZ (the Internet Society of New Zealand Inc) broadly supports today’s Budget commitments by the Labour-led government to invest over $500 million of public funds in broadband over the next five years, and has disclosed it will soon commission an independent assessment of the best path forward for broadband rollout.

The Government spend forms part of a ten year programme that includes a Broadband Investment Fund that will accelerate broadband investment in the business, education, health and rural sectors. Some funds will also be dedicated to improving New Zealand’s international connections.

InternetNZ Executive Director Keith Davidson welcomes any increase in public expenditure on broadband, which he describes as critical infrastructure and essential for ongoing economic growth. The announcement confirms that the debate has moved to decisions on “when” rather than “if” better broadband is required.

“A clear difference has emerged between Labour and National as to how they are approaching this policy question, in terms of amounts to invest, pace of rollout and methods of public engagement. Different levels of detail are also available,” says Davidson.

“InternetNZ has strongly supported the development of a more competitive market in telecommunications, including through the operational separation of Telecom and strengthened regulatory powers for the Commerce Commission which we strongly advocated for.

“The Government’s package as announced today preserves that competitive basis, which we welcome, but proposes less investment than National’s plan, announced last month. We did not expect the major parties to enter into an auction, bidding up the value of their respective broadband proposals, and it is probably more useful to look at the underlying details.

“To help inform public and political debate about the merits of the approaches Labour and National have proposed so far, InternetNZ will soon be commissioning an independent consulting report that will evaluate the proposals on the table, and recommend a best fit approach for New Zealand’s unique conditions,” says Davidson. More detail on this project will be released publicly in the first week of June.

“Returning to today’s announcement, it is encouraging that both main parties have recognised the importance of ubiquitous high-speed broadband and are willing to commit funds to help deploy the necessary infrastructure. “It’s also pleasing they have seen the crucial role that open access networks can play in allowing multiple providers to compete on a level playing field over the same network; and that both have signalled as a priority rural and underserved areas.”

Davidson also commends the Government’s stated priority of a second trans-Tasman cable, saying an additional international link would provide crucial competition that could result in lower costs for consumers for international data, and also provide diverse international paths ensuring a more robust and enduring Internet for NZ.

“The vision of universal access to very high speed broadband infrastructure is becoming widely shared, and the Government’s plans today move further towards realising it. InternetNZ wants to ensure that the final policies of all political parties, by the time the election occurs, are as good as they can be to turn that vision into reality.

For more information:

Keith Davidson

Executive Director

021 377 587
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