Labour pledge $21m to improve broadband

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 11:43 24/07/2014
Fairfax NZ

PLUGGED IN: David Cunliffe with Labour spokesperson for Communications and Information Technology Clare Curran.

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The Labour Party is promising three contestable funds totalling $21.1 million over four years to improve broadband connectivity.

It also wants to investigate the feasibility of assisting a new fibre-optic cable between the South Island and Australia to provide "greater resilience" for the country's broadband networks, "particularly in the circumstance of a natural disaster in the upper North Island".

Cunliffe said one in five people did not have regular access to broadband and singled out the Government's rural broadband initiative (RBI) for criticism, saying statistics suggested rural connectivity was "going backwards".

Communications spokeswoman Clare Curran said the party would bring forward a comprehensive review of telecommunications legislation which was now due to start no later than September 2016. It would also separately review the ultrafast broadband initiative and the RBI, she said.

Labour had not given further consideration to a possible levy on internet providers floated in an accidentally-leaked policy document earlier this year, that would subsidise locally-produced online content. Curran said the possible levy, which prompted strong opposition from some telecommunications firms, was just an "idea" but did not rule it out in Labour's first term.

The contestable funds would include a $9.6m fund to help provide low-cost internet access in deprived urban communities and a $6.3m fund to help community-led initiatives to improve rural broadband. The third fund, of $5.2m, would help provide free internet access in public places, such as libraries.

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