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The Government is investing $270 million to roll out Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) to 190 more small towns, and extend rural broadband to another 74,000 households and businesses, Communications Minister Simon Bridges says.

“We’re also bringing the completion of the UFB network forward by two years. By the end of 2022, our UFB programme will provide more than four million New Zealanders with access to world-class internet,” Mr Bridges says.

The investment is made up of:

$130 million to extend UFB to another 60,000 households and businesses in 190 new towns and complete the network by 2022. $140 million to extend rural coverage of high speed broadband under the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) to another 74,000 rural households and businesses, and to deliver mobile coverage on 1000 kilometres of rural highways and more than 100 tourist areas through the Mobile Black Spot Fund (MBSF).

UFB uses fibre optic cables to deliver broadband to households and businesses.  It is most suitable and cost effective in urban areas with higher dwelling and business densities.

“We started UFB in 2010 with the original goal of connecting 34 towns to world-class fibre-to-the-premises. Earlier this year we expanded it to 200 more towns and today’s announcement will bring us to 390,” Mr Bridges says.

Because UFB is not feasible for every rural community, the RBI provides faster internet to homes and businesses outside UFB areas through a combination of fixed lines upgrades and new fixed wireless coverage.

Over 300,000 rural homes and businesses already have access to improved broadband under the first phase of RBI which was completed in June 2016.

Today’s funding announcement is in addition to the $150 million the Government has already allocated for rural broadband and mobile coverage.

“We want to ensure that some of our biggest sectors that operate in rural New Zealand – such as agriculture and tourism – can benefit from the productivity improvements that better connectivity offers,” Mr Bridges says.

The Mobile Black Spot Fund will improve public safety and visitor experiences by providing greater mobile coverage on stretches of State Highway and in tourism locations where no coverage currently exists.

“We are providing coverage along remote parts of the State Highway network that until now had no coverage at all. For example, State Highway 6 on the West Coast and State Highway 1 in the Far North,” Mr Bridges says.

“Better connectivity in these remote areas will enhance visitor experiences at some of the countries tourist hotspots, such as Milford Sound, Cape Reinga and Bethells Beach.

Together, the Rural Broadband and Mobile Black Spot programmes will be delivered through the construction of more than 450 new towers, in addition to the 150 already built.

“Today’s announcement brings our total investment in rolling out world-leading communications infrastructure to more than $2 billion,” Mr Bridges says.

“Once complete, New Zealand will be in the top five countries in the OECD for access to high speed broadband. Considering that in 2011 we were placed 26th with very little connectivity that will be a fantastic achievement.

“By 2022, 87 per cent of New Zealanders will have access to UFB and 99 per cent will have access to high speed internet,” Mr Bridges says.

The $270 million programme announced today will be funded by $240 million of recycled capital from earlier stages of the UFB programme and $30 million from the Telecommunications Development Levy.

“This investment is a vital part of the Government’s plan to support regional growth and develop a productive and competitive economy,” Mr Bridges says.

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