Connection is crucial for businesses

New businesses to Cromwell's industrial area are battling technological ''third world'' conditions.

Business owners are appealing to the Central Otago District Council to make faster broadband a top priority and put pressure on provider Chorus to upgrade the network to enable business growth in the town.

Promotions Group member and businesswoman Aimee Paardekooper said she had dealt with at least two new businesses who were told they would have to go on a waiting list to get connected to the internet.

''It is third world ... it's not a great look for a town wanting to encourage new business.''

The issue has sparked conversations on business social networking site, Linkedin.

Electrical Consulting Engineer Stuart Pearson said he opened his business in Cromwell's industrial area in late February and had been ''categorically told he could not get connected to (the internet).

After speaking to his landlord who managed to ''magically'' get him connected through a contact, he was now faced with a standard broadband connection where limited speed compromised video-conferencing meetings with staff in Christchurch and clients, and internal systems and files were disrupted.

''We are a fully cloud-based business.''

''A decent broadband connection is crucial to running a business nowadays and at the present time it appears the industrial area around Cromwell is not capable at all to connect new businesses and there is no high-speed internet available. If Cromwell is to grow, it is crucial Chorus upgrade its network.''

Mr Pearson said had he known how challenging it would be to initially organise an internet connection, as well as work within the limits of a basic connection, he probably would have opened a business elsewhere.

He moved to Cromwell from Christchurch with his wife and three children for a better lifestyle after the earthquakes, and with the advancement of technology - he should be able to do his work from anywhere in the world.

''We had a choice to move to Wanaka, Queenstown or Cromwell and we thought Cromwell has so much to offer our family. It was just a huge surprise to lease a new building and be advised to no internet was available.''

Upgrading the network should be a main focus of the council, he said.

''It is only going to get worse as Cromwell is growing.''

''They  need to upgrade the network to businesses, promote it and get new businesses here ... with the surplus land available there is a wonderful opportunity to build a world-class business park in Central Otago. Now we do have broadband up and running we are looking forward to employing new staff and growing the business.''

Central Otago District Council Economic Development manager Warwick Hawker said he was aware of the problems and he was doing what he could to improve the situation.

''We fully agree. We want people like [Mr Pearson] here. It's where the future of our economy lies and this is essential infrastructure to allow this to happen.''

Central Otago would eventually get faster broadband as part of the Government-funded roll out of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI).

The RBI would be done wirelessly and Vodafone had the contract to roll it out by 2016, he said.

Chorus industry and communications manager Gerard Lindstrom said there was enough infrastructure in Cromwell to deal with most people's requirements.


The Southland Times