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Rural communities in New Zealand will receive a broadband upgrade

Emma Olsen
Rural New Zealand
Rural New Zealand   Emma Olsen

New investment in rural network capacity will help lift the development and wellbeing of isolated communities in NZ.

The Government is taking $15 million from the Ultra-Fast Broadband initiative savings to improve rural broadband capacity.

This will include upgrading some existing rural mobile towers, upgrading wireless backhaul (to connect remote sites to central networks), and installing external antennae on houses to improve coverage.

Broadcasting, Communications, and Digital Media Minister Kris Faafoi said the investment would bring broadband services to rural households currently without internet.

"Remote communities will be much better equipped to get going again when we exit lockdown.

"With impacts of COVID-19 seeing New Zealanders using broadband for education, work and maintaining links with friends and whānau, connectivity is more important than ever before."

The Government aims to provide access to around 99.8 percent of Kiwis, especially those in rural communities with school-aged children.

Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones said upgrading infrastructure was likely to be the fastest way to provide broadband to rural households.

"This work will bolster network capacity for under-served rural households.

"Broadband connectivity is crucial for kick-starting economic activity in rural areas and the capacity upgrades are urgent.

"While New Zealand looks to put the economy on the path to recovery, we must ensure our rural communities aren't left behind."

Crown Infrastructure Partners will help the Government prioritise the upgrade of mobile towers in rural areas where a large number of school-age children have no internet access. 

It will also prioritise upgrading towers that provide coverage to the most number of people, and where it's cost-effective to do so.

"Greater numbers of New Zealanders are benefiting as a result of Government and industry working together to provide broadband services across the country.

"Investing in our rural network capacity is an investment in people living in rural areas. It means even more New Zealanders will reap the benefits of connectivity at a time when they need it most," Faafoi said.