10 Oct 2020

Labour promises $60m fund to improve internet in rural areas

5:49 pm on 10 October 2020

The Labour Party is promising to boost internet connectivity in rural New Zealand if re-elected.

man's hands keyboarding on net-book while sitting at the wooden table in cafe,student working  laptop computer

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital connectivity in rural places, Labour's communications spokesperson Kris Faafoi says. Photo: 123RF

A $60 million fund will be set up to target those places with the poorest coverage including: Gisborne, Manawatū, Otago, Hawke's Bay, West Coast, Taranaki and Southland, as well as rural parts of Auckland and Wellington.

Labour's communications spokesperson Kris Faafoi said the money will be used to upgrade capacity and improve networks.

He said the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital connectivity in rural places.

"Their thirst for more data, as people do more work online and start watching either movies or keeping in touch with family via the likes of Zoom etc, means they do have a bigger hunger for data and this will help them get that."

Labour is also promising to spend $10m to improve mobile phone reception in the provinces.

The policy announcement has been welcomed by the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association.

WISPA.NZ chairperson Mike Smith said it will expand city-grade connectivity further into the regions.

"We especially welcome the commitment to release more radio spectrum. Spectrum is crucial to meeting the ever-increasing demand for bandwidth, driven by increasing automation of farm systems and general internet usage, and accelerated by increased online study and work from home."

Smith said it was important to ensure New Zealand's rural communities had world-leading broadband services.

Read more about the 2020 election:

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs