By Tess Brunton

Regional towns across New Zealand could have access to fibre internet speeds using existing fibre broadband connections in schools.

Regional towns across New Zealand could have access to fibre internet speeds because of a unique Waimate initiative.

The Community Wireless Trust uses existing fibre broadband connections in schools.

But it creates a second connection to a port and expands the network beyond the school.

The trust secured $15,000 from InternetNZ to go towards expanding fibre access to the Waimate district.

However, one of grant application’s questions was whether there was an ability to duplicate the roll out process.

Trust operating manager and trustee Matt Hampton said this was not only possible, it was already in the trust’s sights.

“It gives the ability for rural people to enjoy the same speeds as their city counterparts,” Hampton said.

“The scope of the project is mammoth.”

The government’s Fast Broadband in Schools initiative meant most schools had access to faster internet speeds, which the trust could boost to extend the signal.

On average, fibre was five times faster than a standard ADSL connection, he said.

Securing the funding validated what the trust was trying to achieve, Hampton said.

It cost the charitable trust about $168 per month to run the connection and $15,000 for the hardware to cover Waimate, Makikihi and Waituna Downs – the next two areas on the trust’s network plan.

Users would be charged an initial installation fee and a monthly access fee, he said.

“Profit stays in New Zealand in the local area.”

InternetNZ chief executive Jordan Carter said the project meant there could be a fast, viable internet connection in small rural towns.

The fact it could be duplicated was a key attraction for InternetNZ to give the grant, Carter said.

Smaller towns could be left behind as larger centre’s internet speeds continued to improve, he said.

He hoped, by giving the grant, it meant more people could choose to live in rural areas as the speeds improve.

The initial Waimate-based project created a partnership with the Waimate District High School to boost the school’s internet network to the wider community.

A Memorandum of Understanding was created between the two groups, which was facilitated by the Ministry of Education.

The not-for-profit organisation has access to the port, which it sets up the additional infrastructure for, while it also helps to fund the school’s ‘Bring Your Own Device’ initiative.

It also allowed teachers and students to access the school’s network from their home.

Hampton said the school has a 100 megabit pipe – the pipe’s width determines how much data it is capable of transporting –¬†which caters for 750 students.

The trust has connected a 200 megabit pipe to the school’s port, which could enable about 1500 people to access faster internet in the community.

As more school decided to join, it would mean internet requests could be passed though a “less congested route”.

Whilst the Rural Broadband Initiative primarily focused on fibre for the major towns, many smaller rural towns had 4G mobile data instead, he said.

This new initiative meant fibre connections could be deployed in rural areas, using a wireless network, he said.