While it’s not on their immediate agenda, Chorus and the other fibre companies would one day like to push their glass networks as far into the bush as possible.

The Commerce Select Committee may be about to help.

It is looking for “public submissions on the benefits of rolling out fibre on rural electricity infrastructure”. This is part of the work being done preparing the Telecommunications (Property Access and Other Matters) Amendment Bill.

One idea is that network companies can add fibre optic cables to rural electricity power lines without needing to negotiate terms with each landowner.

Under the proposal, the landowners will then be able to connect to the UFB network under terms set out in the Act.

Communications Minister Amy Adams says in a media statement: “As the broadband rollout moves into more economically challenging areas, it’s important to consider other ways to increase the opportunities to deploy fibre. One way might be using existing electricity lines for fibre”.

The government is keen to improve rural communications at a sensible cost, but there’s a risk of riding roughshod over land rights. This proposal is a neat way around the problems.

Adding fibre to rural electricity networks should be easy for the likes of NorthPower, UFF and Enable Networks who all have roots in the electricity business. The engineering companies working with Chorus also have strong links with the power industry.

Rural fibre projects need not be restricted to UFB companies. Most regional electricity companies bid for fibre build contracts when the UFB was first announced. Some could already be dusting down their plans or planning to partner with the UFB firms.

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