Well Ms Adams, your election bride to rural people will not achieve your objective of delivering world-class broadband to rural people
Almost lost amidst the ructions of the continuing ‘Dirty Politics’ epic, were a pair of announcements by government minister Amy Adams that will impact rural people and businesses.  Curiously, each announcement was made with Ms Adams wearing a different hat.

Last week, in the name of the Communications and Information Technology Minister, Amy Adams announced draft licencing rules for the use of television white space devices in New Zealand.

Television white spaces are the unused radio frequencies between adjacent television channels.  They provide a guard band to minimise the potential for cross interference between adjacent frequencies.

With proper engineering, those white spaces can be used to provide fixed, high speed broadband services.  They have a particularly beneficial application as an alternative broadband network in rural areas that are dependent on mobile networks.

This use of white space systems was proposed by Rural Connect, and others, over two years ago, so this is a pleasing development.

kiwi-share-joyceEarlier in the week, and this time in the name of National’s Communications and Information Technology spokeswoman, Amy Adams announced that “…a re-elected National-led Government will establish a new $150 million fund to extend the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI).”

Which makes this a National Party ICT policy item.  In releasing the policy in this form, Amy Adams has shamelessly put her party’s political needs ahead of the needs of rural New Zealanders.

This conclusion is reached because the $150 million dollars is not a new government policy.  It is something that the Minister was expected to make a decision on over a year ago.

Nor is the policy funded from a new budget item. The RBI is funded by the Telecommunications Development Levy (TDL) which is paid by telecommunications service providers.

The TDL was established by legislation in June 2011 at an annual rate of $50 million.  The levy replaces the previous Telecommunications Service Obligation (TSO), or ‘Kiwi Share’, that was created to ensure basic phone services to “uneconomic” rural users when Telecom New Zealand was floated as a public company.

The need to protect rural users against the economics-driven determinations of broadband service providers is little different today than it was when the TSO was established.  To me, the need is actually greater because our society has become more dependent on broadband technologies.

The government initiated a review of the TSO in July 2013 and under the Telecommunications Act that review should have been completed by the end of 2013. Either it was not completed, or the results of the review have not been made public.

That it now appears as party policy appears to be an abuse of process.  Worse, the policy gives on one hand, and denies on another.

The carrot offered to rural people is, re-elect us and we will direct $150 million in your direction.

That $150 million comprises a contestable $100 million over three years for community-led broadband initiatives.

The concept of community-led broadband was proposed by Rural Connect over three years ago. so the policy is welcomed even though it could have been implemented earlier and without seeking a quid pro quo at the ballot box.

The extra $50 million is for further expanding the mobile phone network.  Look out for Vodafone being the beneficiary of that largess.

The stick is that using the fund to extend rural fibre networks to homes and businesses is specifically precluded.

Well Ms Adams, your election bride to rural people will not achieve your objective of delivering world-class broadband to rural people.  All it will do is to further entrench the rural/urban digital divide that your policies created.