13 Nov 2010

Broadband targets not ambitious enough - Fed Farmers

7:53 am on 13 November 2010

Federated Farmers is concerned the Government might be setting the bar too low for broadband speed and coverage in the contract to provide fast internet to rural areas.

Five bids for the contact were received by Friday, including a joint bid from rivals Vodafone and Telecom.

The Government says negotiations for the contract, worth approximately $285 million, are expected to begin next month.

Federated Farmers' chief executive Conor English says he is not convinced that's enough money to provide a quality broadband service for rural communities over the next 25 years.

Mr English says farmers' expectations are a higher than those of the Government.

He's worried that, at the rate the Government is progressing, some rural communities may still wait more than five years to get broadband speeds.

The tender for national coverage will see 80% of rural households getting speeds of at least 5Mbps and the remainder receiving at least 1Mbps, Commerce Minister Steven Joyce said in a statement on Friday.

In addition, the proposals offer to connect at least 93% of rural schools to fibre.

The Area Schools' Association says high speed broadband can't come soon enough to rural schools, as the slowness of the current technology continues to hinder the progress of pupils and teachers.

The association's secretary, Lesley McCardle, estimates that, 20% at most of rural schools have high speed broadband.

She says slow internet speeds waste a lot of teaching time, and impede the development of students.

The Government is expected to announce the successful bid by Christmas.