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Published: 2002-06-14 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is to facilitate the introduction of high speed internet access across the Waikato Region.

The Government announced in last month’s Budget that it would fund fast internet access, known as broadband, for schools and provincial and rural communities. Broadband will allow councils to share and disseminate information and resources, improving services and lowering costs. It would also be available for communities, business groups and schools.

Deputy Chief Executive Bob Priest said Environment Waikato had been investigating the feasibility of improving information access for all of the councils in the Region, and this was a major step forward.

“Several other regions have been actively pursuing the implementation of high speed broadband to all rural communities, schools and businesses. Most of the plans to date have relied on community and council action to combine and fund the infrastructure for the telecommunications companies. The companies then start to refund that investment as demand increases and they can see a commercial revenue stream.”

However he said this was leading to smaller or remote communities and businesses being disadvantaged because there was no clear commercial viability in the service.

“Environment Waikato and South Waikato District Council were looking for more equitable ways to provide high speed broadband access to all communities and the Government announcement immediately makes this possible.”

The Government has divided the country into 14 economic regions, with tenders supplying broadband for each region. The economic regions are roughly similar to current Regional Council boundaries.

“The tenders must be community focused, ensure that all schools are covered as well as the maximum possible number of households and businesses to provide a clear economic return in stronger rural economies and more jobs,” Mr Priest said.

“Over the past two years Environment Waikato has facilitated a number of regional initiatives to enable information and resource sharing between Councils. The lack of broadband access has been an inhibiting factor and the current feasibility study was expanded to take advantage of the Government announcement.”

Environment Waikato is now meeting with all councils, economic development groups, education and other community groups to explain the process and gather information about demand to ensure a cohesive community tender for the Region.

It will also meet with telecommunication infrastructure companies, internet service providers and operational companies over the next two months.

Environment Waikato will initially host on their web site to make information about the process and timetable as widely available as possible.