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Digital divide: Fibre companies move

Chorus says it will waive wholesale broadband charges for up to 50,000 homes that do not have network access. The move aims to bridge the digital divide. It helps students now forced to study at home because of Covid-19 pandemic measures.

For six months households identified by the Ministry of Education as needing broadband for education will get a free connection. This only applies where there is suitable Chorus infrastructure.

The plan is to use the best available broadband. That means fibre where a connection is in place. It means VDSL if fibre is not installed and ADSL if VDSL is not available. There are restrictions on installing new fibre connections under the Covid-19 lockdown. For that reason Chorus says it expects most of the connections will use the copper technologies: VDSL and ADSL.

Speed is of the essence

Ed Hyde, Chorus chief customer officer says: “I am excited to be able to confirm that the Chorus network can be used to provide access to essential tools for learning to students in homes that do not currently have a broadband connection.

It is important to connect these homes as quickly as possible. Hyde says Chorus will work with internet service providers so that learning can resume from the start of the second school term of the year.

He says; “As a wholesale provider, Chorus can’t deliver the whole solution. We’re now looking to the internet service providers who package up our products for consumers to also support the Ministry of Education, with both financial and operational support.

Digital divide an operational challenge

“Delivering these connections to students in a matter of weeks will present a huge operational challenge for the industry. We know how important this is so we will be working hard to get this done.”

InternetNZ CEO Jordan Carter says he is pleased to see Chorus working with ISPs and the government towards increasing digital inclusion during the lockdown. “Affordable internet access for all New Zealanders is vital to maintaining social cohesion, sharing essential information and maintaining work and education.”

Tuanz CEO Craig Young says he expects retail internet company to pass on the free wholesale price in full. He says: “There is a real need for this collaboration we’re seeing to continue, but also to widen across the industry”.

Enable, Ultrafast Fibre move to serve excluded schoolchildren

Enable says it will offer free wholesale fibre broadband to connected homes where schoolchildren unable to access the internet. The company says there are up to 2000 unused fibre connections at the moment.

Steve Fuller, Enable CEO, says: “I can only imagine how isolated some children are feeling when they can’t connect to their school community or their friends and we want to help as many of them as we can”.

Central North Island fibre company Ultrafast Fibre has made a similar move. It says there are around 1,650 households in its area that have an unused connection. Like Enable, UFF will offer a 200/20 connection.