Broadband deal not all it appears

An agreement reached yesterday between the Government, Chorus and other ultrafast broadband network-builders does not guarantee homes with awkward access won't have to pay to connect to UFB until the end of 2015, it has emerged.

The Government said yesterday that it had reached an agreement with Chorus, Enable and Northpower "for free residential connections for distances of up to 200 metres per house from the road, until at least the end of 2015".

However, Chorus spokeswoman Melanie Marshall today clarified that its own commitment was capped at $20 million. If the money set aside to pay for so-called "non-standard" installs ran out before the end of 2015, so too would its free "non-standard" installs.

Marshall estimated about half of homes due to get ultrafast broadband would be within reach of the network by the end of 2015.

The Government's estimate that the funding package announced yesterday would last until the end of 2015 was based on the assumption that no more than 38 per cent of homes within reach of the network would want to connect before then. That suggests the package is likely to pay for about a fifth of all homes with awkard access and within reach of UFB to connect to the network.

A spokesman for Communications Minister Amy Adams said 38 per cent would be a high rate of uptake based on international comparisons.

"And another important point to make is it is the Government's intention to continue to work towards residential connections being free with the UFB partners until the end of 2019, when the network build finishes."

However, Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Paul Brislen forecast homeowners with awkward access could rush to take advantage of the package before the funding ran out. "You might think, 'now is my opportunity, I'd best get in."

While that would be good in many ways, he said there appeared to be some "politicking" in yesterday's announcement, he said.

There will be no installation charge for any homes that can be reached with a 15 metre trench or 30m aerial cable, throughout the life of the scheme.