Praise for town's 'amazing' Gigatown efforts

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 09:20 02/07/2014

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The Gigatown contest has boosted people's knowledge about the benefits of fibre and the internet, but it has also boosted relationships within participating communities, the telecommunications infrastructure company running the contest says.

In the Gigatown contest, communities with fibre laid by Chorus compete by using social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter to gain points for their towns.

The top five towns by mid-September then compete to produce the best project in an effort to win 1 gigabyte internet access for the town, a $200,000 innovation fund, and cheap user rates for a year.

Chorus social media specialist John Dow said the competition had achieved Chorus' goals of raising awareness of the company and of the benefits of fibre connections for people wanting to use the internet.

But it had gone further than that. It had formed new groups in communities of people who had banded together to spearhead their town's efforts.

In many cases, those people didn't know each other before they started working together on it.

"With the Gigatown contest, people either love it or hate it. I love it. It's a great way to get into communities and see how they work. When it ends, I'll be sad."

But he was looking forward to see what the winning town would do with the gigabyte access and the innovations that would come out of it. The winners would not be the only ones to benefit, as it was likely gigabyte access would come to all of New Zealand eventually, Dow said. The Marlborough District Council has mooted paying for gigabyte access if Blenheim doesn't win, because most of the town has fibre laid already.

Gigatown's winner would have other "sweeteners" thrown in other than just the ultra-fast access, he said.

The competition was a marathon, he said. But for towns in the top 10, as Blenheim was, there was still a chance to be in the top five by mid-September.

Extra points could be won through "mini-competitions" and quizzes Chorus was running, and if towns continued to recruit people to use Twitter and other social media, they could increase their points. So far, 95 per cent of Blenheim's points had been gained by people tweeting and using the #gigatownbln hashtag.

To be counted, tweets needed to be about fibre, about the Gigatown contest, or about the town itself, and using just the one #gigatownbln hashtag.

Blenheim had run an "amazing" campaign, he said. It was really clean with no-one trying to bend the rules, and the town had told a good story about how it saw itself. "It is very true of a rural South Island community."

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