Faster rural broadband has moved a step closer to reality with the government calling for expressions of interest from companies wishing to participate in the $300 million rollout.
The Rural Broadband Initiative, which is separate from the government’s ongoing $1.5 billion urban Ultra-Fast Broadband Initiative, aims to provide 80 percent of rural households with connection speeds of at least 10Mbps, with the remainder achieving at least 1Mbps. It also aims to ensure 93 percent of rural schools achieve connection speeds of at least 100Mbps, with the remaining 7 percent of schools attaining speeds of at least 10Mbps.
Communications and IT minister Steven Joyce said in a media release that the call for expressions of interest was the first step in a two-step tender process. It would inform a request for proposal stage from August 2010.
Interested parties would need to submit their expressions of interest to the Ministry of Economic Development by 12pm on May 31, he said.
“Tender participants will be expected to at a minimum provide the provision of fibre connections to 93 percent of rural schools, meet the needs of rural users and broadband access seekers for the foreseeable future, and ensure equivalent and open access infrastructure.
“The government will also consider proposals that would upgrade voice service infrastructure to remote rural users at the same time.”
Joyce said the government expected expressions of interest from telecommunication infrastructure and wholesale bandwidth providers, lines companies, and community organisations in partnership with strategic investment partners and technology suppliers.
The first contracts with companies chosen to participate in the Rural Broadband Initiative would be signed off by the end of the year, he said.