19 Apr 2012

Tiny rural school keen for broadband upgrade

11:30 am on 19 April 2012

The principal of a remote central North Island school is eagerly awaiting news on when it will receive faster broadband under the final phase of the Government's scheme.

The Government announced on Tuesday that it has selected Chorus and other preferred providers to supply $14.4 million worth of broadband to schools, hospitals and libraries.

It is the final phase of the Government's $300 million plan to provide high-speed internet to the country's remoter regions.

Orautoha School near Raetihi, which has 18 pupils, is in line to have its broadband connection upgraded.

Principal Amohia Rolls says the internet connection is very slow at present and cannot cope with Skype or face-to-face conferencing.

She says the pupils use the internet to complete assessments, and the connection is often cut while they are online and information they have uploaded is lost.

Ms Rolls says she's eagerly waiting to hear from the Ministry of Education about the timing of the upgrade for her school.

Hospitals, libraries to benefit

Announcing the contracts on Tuesday, Communications and IT Minister Amy Adams said the initiative will ensure the most remote 193 schools will have access to broadband, as will nearly 200 libraries, 37 hospitals and 10 rural health centres.

She says the social benefits from broadband into those facilities is considerable.

"It particularly removes the tyranny of distance of some of our outlying communities and means that wherever you are in the country, the education you receive, the health services you receive, and the connection capabilities you have will be the equivalent of being anywhere in the world."

Ms Adams says the development represents a significant change, particularly for rural and provincial New Zealand.

Federated Farmers' spokesperson for telecommunciations, Anders Crofoot, says rural people in the most remote regions require the same access to broadband as their urban counterparts.

He says the federation lobbied the Government to ensure the rollout of high-speed internet was extended to all rural schools.

Mr Crofoot says building of the broadband infrastructure can't start soon enough.