Rural electricians in New Zealand have lost access to some of the nation’s most advanced rural broadband technology due to a “sloppy” and “unfair” agreement with the Government, the latest evidence of how the Government’s approach to rural services is not working.
“The Government is using an archaic and unfair agreement to get more rural broadband into rural areas,” Rural Electrician’s Association chief executive, Peter MacKay, said in a statement.
The agreement between the Government and Rural Electricians’ Association (REA) to get some of New Zealand’s most-advanced rural broadband to remote and remote-outlying areas expires in June, with the two sides having until June 2019 to finalise a final deal.
Mr MacKay said the Government should have been more transparent about the agreement, which the REA had agreed to in 2013, and should have also offered better funding to rural electries to help them grow and improve.
Under the agreement with REA, which is part of the Government-funded Rural Broadband Network (RBN) programme, a rural electric company must provide at least 80 per cent of its peak residential connection to the Rural Broadnet network (RBN), which is available to rural businesses, homes and businesses in remote areas.
Rea has said that the agreement will allow it to expand into rural communities with a smaller footprint, but has said the deal is “unworkable” and would not allow it “to reach all rural households”.
The Government’s response to the REAs demand for more rural connectivity has been to impose restrictions on rural businesses and homeowners that they must be able to access the RBN.
On Thursday, Mr MacKay wrote to Minister for Communications, Innovation and Science Kevin Andrews, asking him to reverse the RNZ’s proposed changes to the legislation to allow the Government to block access to the RPN from the rural electric companies.
He also said that REA members are “disappointed” with the RAN’s response.
“It is very disappointing that the Government has failed to honour its own commitments to ensure rural electrys are properly funded,” Mr Mac Kay said.
“We believe the Government must immediately change the Government agreement to allow rural electricists access to RBN services and to allow access to other services such as those from the Government.”
The Government says that it will continue to provide funding for the RENAs cost-sharing arrangement and for RBN infrastructure to ensure it is fully up to date.
“The current agreement with RANES is a significant and successful model that has made a positive contribution to rural electric communities,” Minister for the Energy, Industry and Resources, Jacinda Ardern, said.
RENAs Rural Broadbands have been provided to rural communities across the country since 2009, with more than 2.5 million homes and business premises in New York and Queensland receiving them.
Since 2013, the Government of New York has also funded RENA to provide rural broadband for some communities in New Jersey and New Jersey.
In addition, the RUSA has also provided funding to provide services in parts of the south-west and eastern regions of New South Wales.
A spokesman for the Government said that funding for RANEs costs remained the same as for RENs, and that the RSNs cost-shared agreement had not been renewed.
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