Fast Internet plan funding on agenda

Clutha's economic watchdog will tomorrow consider its approach to lobbying the Government to invest in installing high-speed Internet into rural regions - even though there are no guarantees money will be there after the election.

The Ministry of Economic Development's broadband investment fund provides some money to improve infrastructure for broadband around the country.

This week's Clutha District Council District Development Board meeting will consider whether it should apply for a portion of that funding.

In a report for the board, district development manager Julie Pearse said she had met southern organisations and Clutha residents involved in the information technology industry.

Discussions have developed the South Island digital framework proposal which would involve a single mainland effort for infrastructure and fast Internet cabling into the South Island.

The only available options for Clutha for now are either a satellite-based service or using Telecom.

Developing local wireless networks was uneconomical for now, Mrs Pearse said.

Interest in the South Island framework was building momentum with a "high level" of interest coming through.

"The fibre-optic cable that could be laid would be accessible to a number of providers, thus providing the competition that will drive prices down.

"The aim will be for that cable to be laid through as many of the smaller, but key rural towns as it moves down the east coast of the South Island."

But adding to the complications, Mrs Pearse said, is the possible scrapping of the fund if National was to win the election.

"If the new government is a National government, the fund is likely to be scrapped altogether, as National has indicated a different approach to broadband roll-out . . . there is hesitation about going through the process when the possible outcomes are uncertain."


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