Internet access for all a top priority

GREER BERRY - DIGITAL EDITOR
Last updated 08:17 04/12/2013

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OPINION: In just a few years, reliable internet access has gone from becoming a luxury for some, to a necessity for most.

While the internet itself has come along in leaps and bounds from the days of noisy and annoying dial-up, there are still huge improvements that could be made to how the region is served by internet providers.

Chorus and Vodafone - through their rural broadband initiative - cover much of where Kiwis work and live.

But as the Manawatu Standard reports today, you don't have to go far to find yourself in a dreaded online black spot.

It's almost incomprehensible that just a quick five-minute drive out of Palmerston North, homeowners are thrown into a dead zone on the information highway.

While it's understandable that our country has geographic issues related to coverage, it would be interesting to know where physical issues end and commercial concerns begin.

Rollout plans for upgrades in 2020 to these lowly-sourced areas are slow and unrealistic.

The lack of urgency shown is unacceptable.

According to the World Internet Project 2013, 98 per cent of Kiwi internet users have online access from home.

While some may choose not to activate their connection, the lack of choice at properties has a flow-on effect in terms of the ability to run a business, and even educate children.

There is no doubt that providers want to ensure their densely populated areas are served well; that makes perfect commercial sense.

However, it's not a good look to be seen to be putting rural customers into the "too hard" basket - especially when their own neighbours have access to full online services.

Census data released yesterday showed that access to the internet for Manawatu/Whanganui residents had leapt more than 31 per cent since 2006.

We are clearly seeing the advantages of a more interconnected world and we want to get on board.

However, those same statistics revealed that only about 70 per cent of those in the region have internet access at all.

Internet access is more than being able to look at funny video clips on You Tube and "like" photos on Facebook.

It has become a vital communication tool that needs to be made a priority - starting with ensuring fair and reasonable access for as many people as possible.

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- Manawatu Standard

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