19 May 2015

Call for better rural broadband strategy

5:57 am on 19 May 2015

A Māori internet working group, Ngā Pū Wāea, plans to urge the Government to be more strategic about rolling out fibre optic broadband to marae in rural areas.

Ngā Pū Wāea said it needed to keep costs down and make the faster broadband more accessible.

The Crown-backed group released a report last year that investigated video conferencing options suitable for Māori organisations with the deployment of faster broadband, in the form of ultra fast broadband and the rural broadband initiative.

Ngā Pū Wāea board member Hinurewa Te Hau said while there had been some good developments, it was still not being rolled out fast and strategically enough around schools and marae.

"We have to look at where the current school is, and how far away the marae is," Ms Te Hau said.

"A marae is just like a school, it is an educational place, it's a wānanga [type] place.

"So, in this next lot of roll-out that's happening, Ngā Pū Wāea are talking with [the] Ministry of Business Innovation and saying to them: 'look, you need to look more succinctly at how you're rolling out broadband to ensure that our marae communities are actually part of that roll-out, because currently the costs are still too high for them'."

Ms Te Hau acknowledged that providing services to remote locations was a challenge, but it meant looking at alternative solutions to get fibre optic cables connected to those areas.

She said there had been some "win-win" situations, such as the Mitimiti on the Grid Project led by Robyn Kamera in the Far North.

Ms Kamera said it would improve the infrastructure and help boost the local economy by providing opportunities for existing businesses and facilitating the establishment of new and home-based businesses.

"We're an isolated settlement that struggles to keep people. We expect this project will contribute to changing that around."

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