Friday, March 19, 2010

New Zealand's Rural Broadband Initiative finalised


New Zealand’s communications minister Steven Joyce announced on Tuesday that plans for the rural broadband initiative (RBI) have been finalised. From TeleGeography:
"Under the RBI, 97% of rural households will have access to broadband services of at least 5Mbps, with the remainder reaching at least 1Mbps. Schools will also benefit from the plan with direct fibre connections delivered to 97% of schools across the country and 99.7% of students. The RBI is being implemented separately but alongside the government's Ultra-Fast Broadband Initiative in urban areas and is expected to cost around NZD300 million (USD210.35 million), funded by a NZD48 million direct government grant, plus NZD252 million raised via a new Telecommunications Development Levy being set up as part of the accompanying TSO reforms. The new levy will see NZD50 million a year raised through contributions from telcos. All will then be able to compete for the right to tap the fund to develop rural broadband services."
More on the plans for schools from the New Zealand government's press release:
"A big part of the plan will be connecting fibre directly to rural schools. "Schools are one of the most concentrated areas of broadband demand," says Mr Joyce. "The government's rural broadband initiative will help deliver fibre connections to 97% of schools across the country and 99.7% of students. The remaining most remote schools will achieve speeds of at least 10Mbps...Mr Joyce says that the only significant change to the rural broadband initiative was to up-weight the importance of the community connection objectives, relative to the schools part of the initiative. "Some submitters were concerned that too much emphasis was being placed on school connectivity relative to the rest of the community.  We have changed that in the final plan to be clear that while the schools will be the original catalyst to get fibre to the community; achieving at least 5Mbps across the communities is the primary aim of the exercise." "
"Schools will be the original catalyst to get fibre to the community"...an interesting echo of the anchor institution/community access recommendations made in the US National Broadband Plan, see this previous post for more on this. And speeds of at least 10Mbps for the most remote schools is an ambitious commitment if the UK experience is any indicator.

The New Zealand government will undertake a two-phase RBI tender process, calling for Expressions of Interest during April and commencing allocating funding to successful bidders before the end of the year. The final RBI proposal document is available here, which includes details of the access, service and performance and technical standard minimum requirements "that will promote a pro-competitive, future-proofed outcome for rural communities".

Central to this are requirements to ensure "open access to RBI-funded infrastructure over time", "Equivalence of Inputs for access to RBI-funded fibre" and, perhaps most interesting of all, "establish at least one open access local aggregation point per community where a school is connected and allow access seekers to establish additional aggregation points under reasonable terms and conditions."

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