Broadband still costly in rural areas

PIERS FULLER
Last updated 12:13 27/11/2013

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Wairarapa

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The government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on bringing faster broadband speeds to rural areas, but price and availability is still a barrier for many rural Wairarapa customers.

Even when people are within the range of newly installed fixed wireless broadband connections provided by the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), some argue that the cost is far from the "comparable" pricing with urban users that the government promised.

Father Stanley Nield lives up Te Wharau Road east of Carterton and he has extensively investigated his options to improve his broadband speeds to get a usable connection. He takes issue with the government's promise of providing broadband to rural homes at a comparable price. He is paying much more than what a person in town would be charged for the same amount of data.

"We can't get the Riversdale RBI, which is still expensive if you can get it," he says.

With the help of a turbo wireless router he is able get a link to a cellphone tower and he pays $30 for 1.5GB of broadband.

"It's still ten times what people in town would pay, which is hardly comparable," he says.

A price comparison shows that a fixed wireless broadband connection is more expensive, particularly when comparing data for data.

Vodafone currently offers two fixed wireless packages which include a local telephone calling on the same line. The $100 plan includes 5GB of data per month and the $110 plan includes 15GB. This compares to Telecom's current land-based $85 broadband package which includes 80GB and local calling.

On the cheapest fixed wireless package data costs around $7 per gigabyte. This is compared to just $1.06 for a landbased service. On its 500GB data plan Telecom broadband users are paying just 24 cents per GB.

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Janet Bache said that the Government has set the maximum wholesale prices that can be charged by Vodafone and Chorus. For both wireless and landbased services these are set at $44, which is the same as the wholesale price for landbased services at the time the contracts were signed in April 2011.

"The gap between wholesale and retail prices for wireless broadband seems to be generally higher than it is for landbased services. In part this may reflect the investment that retail service providers need to make to enable free installation for users, as well as the costs of delivering the service, particularly while it is still a relatively new service," Ms Bache says.

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- Wairarapa News

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