9 Oct 2014

Rural groups fear digital divide

7:34 am on 9 October 2014

Federated Farmers and the Telecom Users Association say cheaper, faster broadband is essential to ensure the productive sector in rural New Zealand is not left behind.

Federated Farmers and TUANZ say rural residents shouldn't miss out.

Federated Farmers and TUANZ say rural residents shouldn't miss out. Photo: PHOTO NZ

They have joined forces to encourage the newly-elected Government to go beyond the current rural broadband target to deliver better connections.

Both say rural broadband needs to be available to everyone - not just rural schools and towns - otherwise the digital divide will only widen.

Federated Farmers' telecommunications spokesperson Anders Crofoot said the status quo is not an option.

"Our members get really, really fed up with it - there are some areas where even the cell phone coverage is just horrendous. A while ago, it probably didn't make much difference because not many people had cellphones and they didn't rely on it, but as time goes by people get used to that technology and they want to use it in more and more places.

"If it turns into something that you can only use in the cities or can only get access to in the cities, our members are going to start getting pretty hot under the collar about it.

"Internet connectivity is the next evolution. First it was roads, then it was electricity and internet connectivity is really the same sort of enabling technology - and for rural New Zealand to be essentially left in the dust is not going to be beneficial at all."

Mr Crofoot said the Government needs to match its urban and rural aspirations to ensure gigabit equality.

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