Fairlie could be the next town to benefit from a wireless fibre internet project, which could be duplicated across the country.

The Waimate Community Wireless Trust is looking to expand into different districts after a successful trial in Waimate.

The trust tendered for the Government’s Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) with a proposal to connect all 16 districts with wireless fibre internet earlier this month.

The project utilises existing fibre broadband connections in schools and boosts the network into the surrounding community.

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Trust operating manager Matt Hampton said Fairlie was not scheduled to receive faster internet under the Government’s broadband programmes.

The trust was approached by Mackenzie District councillor Chris Clarke, who was unavailable to comment, to set Fairlie up with wireless fibre.

“Most rural communities have to wait if they want higher speeds at a value price,” Hampton said.

“Fibre without trenching is a no brainer.”

The Waimate project could be duplicated by communities across the country, Hampton said.

It cost about $15,000 to kickstart and it could be completed with four months, he said.

Hampton believed a similar project, including installing the equipment, could be completed in two months if the funding was there and a community project group was set up before the trust arrived to set it up.

Subscriptions to the internet service were put back into the community, he said.

While he could not provide more details on the trust’s tender application, Hampton said it could benefit more than 130,000 households across the country.

“We are a New Zealand owned/operating network that can’t be sold.”

Growth was limited in rural communities which did not have internet infrastructure as so much business is online, he said.

Mackenzie District Mayor Graham Smith said he would certainly look at the trust’s wireless option.

Many places in the district would not receive fibre internet, Smith said.

“It’s the sheer economics, it ain’t going to happen.”

However, wireless fibre could provide an alternative to copper cabling, he said.

“Anything that could improve our internet, I’d welcome.”

InternetNZ chief executive Jordan Carter said the key attraction of providing funding to the trust was the potential to duplicate elsewhere in the country.

The trust received $15,000 from the organisation’s community project grants, which supported better access to, delivery or use of the internet.

“It’s great to hear the framework is being shared to provide wifi to the Fairlie community after the success of the Waimate project.”

“This will give Fairlie people better access to all the opportunity the internet brings,” Carter said.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment building, resources and markets ICT policy and programmes manager Jane Tier said the areas selected to receive fibre under the second phase of the Government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB2) programme were determined following a commercial negotiation process that was managed by Crown Fibre Holdings.

“The Government’s objective for UFB2 was to increase the number of New Zealanders able to access fibre to over 80 per cent.

“As a result, population size was a key determining factor in producing the list of towns that bids were invited for when the tender was released. Every town on this list was successful, and a range of other commercial considerations were taken into account when bidders proposed other areas.”

For areas not covered by the programme, an additional $150m was allocated as part of the RBI and Mobile Black Spot Fund to improve broadband coverage, Tier said.

Regional operators, such as wireless internet service providers, were encouraged to participate both programmes’ tender process with innovative solutions, she said.

Tender applications closed on April 3 and were now being evaluated, Tier said.

 – Stuff