By Tess Brunton

While regional economic development is not the main reason for the wirelss fibre internet initiative, it could become a ...

While regional economic development is not the main reason for the wireless fibre internet initiative, it could become a positive flow-on effect.

Tourists and businesses could benefit from a Waimate internet initiative, which aims to bring city speeds to rural areas.

While regional economic development was not the main reason for the initiative, it could become a positive flow-on effect.

The Community Wireless Trust’s initiative accesses a school’s existing fibre connection, using a 200 megabit pipe, and boosts the signal to the surrounding community.

A Ministry of Education (MoE) spokesman said the initiative was likely to be “very beneficial” for people in the local area.

Trust operating manager and trustee Matt Hampton hoped the project could enable a hotspot to be placed in Waimate for tourists to access visitor information.

If there was more technology on offer, younger people might be less likely to want or need to move out of the area, Hampton said.

Introducing high speed internet could help boost economic development in the region by attracting more businesses and tourists to the area, he said.

It would be possible for mobile workers to live in the district, he said.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) ICT policy and programmes manager Jane Tier said being able to connect to fast and reliable internet was critical for any business and for all communities.

The MBIE’s Rural Broadband Initiative meant 1034 schools had access to fibre connections along with faster broadband access on offer to more rural households and businesses.

“It enables efficient exchange of information, allows additional ways to interact with customers, increases productivity and connects our communities and businesses to each other and to the rest of the world,” Tier said.

“It’s positive to see this fibre network being used to expand fast broadband into the community, in this case through the Community Wireless Trust.”

A commercial tender process for $150 million phase two of the initiative was underway to further improve rural broadband service and mobile coverage, she said.

“Regional operators are encouraged to participate in phase two with innovative solutions,” Tier said.

MoE education infrastructure service acting head Rob Giller said the ministry was supportive of schools providing education opportunities in the wider community.

Schools could provide digital hubs for their communities by extending the range of access to their internet using the wireless network and by sharing its fibre infrastructure with a third party provider who could on-sell the internet service to the community, Giller said.

Schools had to apply to the ministry for a licence for the second option and all schools were eligible to become a community internet hub, but topography and availability of willing internet retailers could present an issue, Giller said.

 – Stuff