the government and Chorus put a spin on a project that will have minimal actual benefits for Franklin people and businesses in the short term
Franklin residents may welcome the news last week that Chorus will commence its roll out of ultrafast broadband in Pukekohe and Waiuku as planned in July 2013.

Chorus seem pretty happy in confirming plans for the third year of its Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) deployment.  The July 2013 to June 2014 plan will see Chorus building the UFB network in eight more towns including Waiuku and Pukekohe.

To bolster demand for new high speed broadband services, Chorus is taking the curious step of working with local councils, communities and the industry “…to build excitement around the benefits fibre can deliver for residents and businesses.”  However and in line with UFB policy, fibre will be delivered first to priority customers, which includes schools, hospitals, medical facilities and businesses by 2016.  Homes will follow between 2016 and 2019.

UFB Pukekohe WaiukuChorus’ map outlining the UFB deployment areas (in dark blue), year three deployment plans (red checks) and business fibre areas (yellow) is shown.

Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams has welcomed the news too.

“The UFB initiative is central to the government’s economic growth plan. The Government’s broadband policies are a big part of our plans to lift the long-term performance of our economy, create jobs, and boost incomes,” Ms Adams says.

“The future of broadband is in fibre, and it will bring significant gains for productivity, innovation and global reach.” she says.  Fine, unless you are part of the 25% of New Zealanders excluded from the government’s fibre plans.

But is this good news for Franklin people and businesses?

If there was ever any doubt about the continuation of the UFB program, then the Chorus’ press release would be good news for Pukekohe and Waiuku. But Chorus already have the cash so there never was any such doubt.

And only parts of Pukekohe and Waiuku will benefit with the rural areas of Franklin seeing no benefit at all.

Pukekohe and Waiuku were always included in the year 3 rollout of the UFB and the suggestion from Chorus that additional parts of Pukekohe are now included, is good news for those parts.

The take-up of high speed fibre-based broadband is only now starting to build.  When the government released its first year progress report in August, only 100 new connections to Chorus’ fibre had been made.   Which may be why Chorus are wanting to build ‘excitement’ in the new technology.

A point of contention in the UFB roll-out that will affect demand, is the cost of the fibre drop from the street to residential premises.  For ‘standard’ connections, the fibre drop will be paid for by Chorus.  People living more than 15m or 30m from the road have a non-standard connection and they may have to pay for the fibre drop themselves.  This could cost many hundreds of dollars and is a barrier to people signing up for the new services.  The government and Chorus are presently in negotiations to address that particular issue and in the interim, Chorus are waiving non-standard connection charges until the end of 2012.

All in all, the government and Chorus put a spin on a project that will have minimal actual benefits for Franklin people and businesses in the short term.  But the project will prove crucial to the development of Franklin in the medium term.


Background

The UFB initiative involves Government investment of $1.5 billion “alongside private sector funding” to roll out fibre to schools, hospitals, and 90 per cent of businesses by 2016, and links to homes and remaining businesses completed by 2019.  Fibre will be capable of peak speeds of 100 Mbps.

The Government has a separate $300 million Rural Broadband Initiative to address the specific broadband infrastructure needs of rural New Zealand.  It will bring faster broadband to 86 per cent of rural homes and businesses, with peak speeds of at least 5Mbps.  Before the RBI was launched, about 20 per cent of rural homes and businesses had access to 5Mbps, and about half of the rural community used dial-up.