National and Labour used Microsoft’s Tech Ed conference this week to re-affirm their commitment to fast broadband investment.
Labour defended Telecom’s cabinetisation programme as the way forward, while the Opposition says it will roll out fibre to homes and businesses within six years if elected later this year.
National leader John Key says the party’s $1.5 billion Fibre-to-the-Home (FttH) plan is part of a public/private investment partnership totalling between $3 billion and $3.5 billion.
Key adds fast broadband is a necessity due to New Zealand’s isolation, poor productivity and the ‘brain drain’ of Kiwis leaving for Australia and other countries.
“If we don’t put that money in, New Zealand will remain 25th out of 30 in the OECD for fast broadband. If we do what we’re proposing, we’ll lift New Zealand into the top half a dozen [nations].
“The real issue for New Zealand is can we afford not to do this and in my view the answer is no.”
Labour’s communications and information technology minister David Cunliffe says his party agrees with the urgency of the need for fast broadband, but differed from National in how it would achieve this.
He acknowledged in previous governments Labour had not provided an adequate regulatory structure when Telecom was privatised, but said the structure following operational separation was “world best practice”.
“I believe Telecom is face-forward to the future,” he says, adding that investment by broadband market entrants has doubled.
Labour’s Broadband Investment Fund, which sets aside $340 million in funding for business and community organisations, will allow financial support for broadband projects to be given this calendar year, rather than funding delays that could result from National waiting a year after the election to finalise its plans, Cunliffe says.
He also claims National would take a “single utility” approach to broadband and would re-regulate the market, giving advantage to the incumbent.