Steven Fry’s outburst on broadband in NZ, however confused, did at least succeed in putting the state of our broadband access back in the headlines for a bit. It’s an issue that the Nats would rather we forgot. Remember these empty promises back before the 2008 election?
National’s latest billboard highlights the party’s commitment to rolling out an ultra-fast broadband network, says National Party Leader John Key.
“A National Government will invest up to $1.5 billion to drive the roll-out of a ‘fibre to the home’ ultra-fast broadband network. … “National’s medium to long-term vision is for a fibre connection to almost every home, supported by satellite and mobile solutions where it makes sense.
“Our initial aim is to ensure the accelerated roll-out of fibre right to the home of 75% of New Zealanders. In the first six years, priority will be given to business premises, schools, health facilities, and the first tranche of homes.
Sadly, National’s costings for this promise were drivel:
A study commissioned by the Treasury has warned it would cost between $5.3 billion and $10.4b to connect three-quarters of New Zealand homes with fibre-optic cable using the Government’s preferred active Ethernet technology.
Former Telecom chief technology officer Murray Milner, who carried out the study, says the $1.5 billion the Government has allocated to its ultrafast broadband plan would not be sufficient to connect that number of homes. That is even if matching investment from the private sector was forthcoming and cheaper, “passive” fibre technology was used.
And so the back-peddling began. Now in the aftermath of the Fry-inspired focus on the issue, the Nats are trying to put a brave face on it:
British actor Stephen Fry’s criticism of New Zealand’s broadband does not appear to have the Government too abashed, with Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams today boasting about the “excellent progress” made in the last three years. …
Ms Adams said contracts had been locked in, the rollout was under way, and competitive wholesale prices had been secured, but it was up to the industry to ensure New Zealanders got the quality and performance they expected at prices they could afford.
“Government can help but it is industry that ultimately carries responsibility for delivery of faster broadband in the marketplace in an attractive way.” …
Prime Minister John Key yesterday defended the network. … The Government has set aside $1.5 billion for ultra-fast broadband, and aims to have the service reaching 75 per cent of New Zealand in the next 10 years.
Notice how we’ve gone from 2008 promises of the government providing broadband nirvana within six years to the 2012 reality of it’s up to “industry” within ten years. Notice how we’ve gone from “right to the home of 75% of New Zealanders” to “75 per cent of New Zealand” (whatever that means). And if you want the real detail on how vacuous those National election promises were, go read Chris Barton’s “Telecom’s new monopoly” – “We now know that it’s a promise that’s not only broken, it’s shattered”.