Coronavirus: Farmers welcome $15 million for rural broadband

The funding aims to improve rural broadband capacity.
The funding aims to improve rural broadband capacity. Photo credit: Getty

A farming group is welcoming the Government's investment in rural broadband calling it a positive sign for the future of rural communities.

Up to $15 million has been allocated from the Ultra-Fast Broadband initiative to improve rural broadband capacity.

Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi said the new investment would help lift the development and wellbeing of isolated communities as New Zealand's economy recovers from COVID-19.

"Investing in our rural network capacity is an investment in people living in rural areas. It means even more New Zealanders will reap the benefits of connectivity at a time when they need it most," said Faafoi.

The funding would go towards upgrading some existing rural mobile towers, upgrading wireless backhaul, which connects remote sites to central networks, and installing external antennae on households to improve coverage.

Andrew Hoggard said the investment was a positive sign for the future of rural communities.
Andrew Hoggard said the investment was a positive sign for the future of rural communities. Photo credit: Newshub

Federated Farmers vice president Andrew Hoggard said farmer surveys had shown there were large parts of the rural countryside which still had slow, or no, access to the internet.

He said the announcement was a positive move.

"The vast majority of New Zealanders living in towns and cities have absolutely no idea how bad internet access still is in some parts of the country," said Hoggard.

He said internet speeds for rural users made it difficult to complete tasks like internet banking, making orders online and using recruitment websites, not to mention the kids being able to do online schooling.

Federated Farmers planned to continue to push for the Government to speed up the roll out of the Rural Broadband Initiative.

"We've said for a long time that there is a strong link between rural productivity and internet connectivity. If you are looking for a shovel-ready project, this would be a good one. The shovels are already in the ground.

"It is good the Government is looking for ways to continue to grow rural businesses with better technology, especially given the post-COVID-19 world we will be living in, so hopefully this is just the start of a thoughtful approach to building rural business and community resilience."

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