The internet: How Kiwis are faring

Nearly all New Zealanders have affordable internet access but there are disparities in low-income areas and for satellite service users, new research shows.

The Broadband Affordability in New Zealand report compared income and population data with internet prices, availability and usage. It found:

* 98% of Kiwis had access to internet deemed affordable by international standards.

* Those who lived in rural areas paid twice as much as their urban counterparts -- but that was still affordable.

* Prices were unaffordable for 44 pockets of houses in low-income urban areas.

* New Zealanders dependent on satellite internet were not only living in lower income areas but paying up to nine times more than users of other services.

The InternetNZ-funded study by Wellington telecommunications analyst company Telco2 looked at connectivity options for households to fibre, copper ADSL lines, Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) and satellite services.

Comparisons were based on data use of 26Gb a month, the median usage measured by the Commerce Commission in a report last year on internet habits.

To be deemed affordable, Kiwis would need to spend less than 5 per cent of their income on internet bills by next year, according to a target set by the International Telecommunication Union and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation ).

Researcher Jon Brewer said the study clarified some misconceptions about New Zealand internet prices but also raised questions about access for those missing out on fairly priced services.

The most affordable option was ADSL, available for $55 a month to 92.74 per cent of New Zealand households. Fibre was available to more than 1.1 million addresses, but the cheapest fibre option -- $69 a month -- was available to less than 1 per cent of addresses.

About 356,000 households had access to RBI, at $95 a month, but it was the cheapest option for only 5 per cent.

Satellite, which was available to 1.78 million households, at $435 a month was the cheapest option for just 2 per cent of them.

Mr Brewer said despite the general affordability of ADSL and RBI, there were still areas of concern.

"We can see there are some pockets of very low-income urban areas where even ADSL is unaffordable.

"There are a lot of countries where governments have decided access to broadband is a fundamental right and that nobody should have to spend 10 per cent of their income on internet."

There were 44 clusters of 10 or more houses where no internet was affordable. These were largely isolated coastal or rural areas, but also concentrated in low-income urban areas.

Satellite users were earning the least but paying the most for internet -- six times more than Australians paid for the equivalent and four times those in the United States paid.

Mr Brewer said the New Zealand Government needed to do more to ensure services were affordable for all residents.

Minister for Communications and Information Technology Amy Adams said the report showed affordability is good and improving and the Government was extending its Ultra Fast Broadband rollout to 75 per cent of the population over 10 years, and was spending an extra $150 million on rural broadband.

By Morgan Tait of the New Zealand Herald

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