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Public help with national fibre bid

Venture Southland is seeking public support to have parts of Southland added to the rollout of ultrafast broadband, rural broadband, and improved mobile services.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is planning the second round of nationwide investment into these services, and Venture Southland is coordinating a bid on behalf of Southland and its three councils.

Otatara, Winton, and Te Anau will be put forward as candidates for inclusion in the ultrafast broadband rollout, and Knobs Flat, The Key around Gorge Hill, and Ryal Bush have been identified as areas in need of improved cell coverage.

Venture Southland enterprise project manager Robin McNeill said it was crucial to the success of the bid that as many residents as possible wrote letters of support to Venture Southland and completed an online survey by the end of this month.

“In the end, we want a pile of paper that’s as thick as our arm, and we can say ‘here’s a thousand residents who need to get Internet on fibre’,” he said.

“They’ll need to stack up, and they’ll tell a story.” Venture Southland is interested in public feedback relevant to any of these areas, and relating to current service quality, particularly negative experiences, impact on living and working, and how future improvements could make a difference.

“It’s really important that people go to that, because it shows that the community is concerned. It’s a chance for the community to say ‘hey, we want good Internet, high speed Internet where we live, and it’s important to us’.” Communications Minister Amy Adams put out a call in March to all councils seeking their views on priority areas and said there had been a good amount of interest.

“This is a significant opportunity for councils to make a credible difference to the telecommunications infrastructure of their area and so we want councils to put their best case forward,” Ms Adams said.

Information from local authorities and communities would be an important part of deciding on the infrastructure to be deployed in this next phase, she said.

Digital Office strategist Stuart Dillon-Roberts helps businesses to plan for the future and utilise new technologies, and said ultrafast broadband on fibre could make a huge difference to businesses all across Southland.

“This is transformational,” he said.

“Broadband is like a road, and fibre is like a motorway.” On the surface, Internet services would be delivered much faster, and more things could be done online simultaneously, he said.

“But the other benefit is that you can reach out and look at new services that traditionally you couldn’t have accessed,” he said.

“Even that one little thing can make a huge difference in business.” Cloud-based services, video streaming, and conferencing facilities were small changes to business practice that could have big implications.

“You’re going to have tourists coming through, and they’re going to have high expectations for fast Internet,” he said.

“Tourists today want to see what people have on offer; they don’t want to read about it.”

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