In March of last year, Government announced it was providing an additional tranche of funding to address concerns and support the delivery of urban and rural broadband. This comprised $152m-$210m for UltraFast Broadband (UFB2), $100m to expand the coverage of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI2) and also $50m to improve Mobile Black Spots (MBS). Marlborough District Council was an applicant for this funding.
From April – June 2015, Marlborough District Council engaged in a series of meetings and public forums, supported by a Steering Group which included representatives of the local MP’s electorate office, Marlborough Chamber of Commerce, IT Industry and Council. There were widespread indications of dissatisfaction with current broadband and mobile coverage, particularly in the Marlborough Sounds and rural communities.
In July 2015, Council submitted its ROI Response-Support document to MBIE seeking funding allocation for the district. Council has recognised that given the scale of demand and the previous pattern of provision by large telecommunications providers, no matter what funding Marlborough won from the Crown, this would not satisfy all reasonable expectations for improvement in coverage.
Councils were asked by Government to engage with communities to support uptake, facilitate consent processes, support more rapid deployment and allow for more cost effective delivery. There was a clear expectation that Councils would continue to implement their Digital Enablement Plans as the Crown considered the case for any regional allocations of funds to assist with broadband expansion.
Indications now are that the demand from Councils across New Zealand for UFB2, RBI2 and MBS funding will far exceed the budgets proposed by the Crown.
While some funding will be available from the Crown, this will need to be supplemented to meet the demand for high quality broadband and mobile coverage regardless of location. There are a range of options to provide broadband expansion, which Council can support and facilitate. These include local community initiatives, iwi partnerships, commercial offerings, projects supported by Council with commercial investment, and Council-facilitated business partnerships or some other form of delivery partnership.
Council has identified the importance of better connectivity across Marlborough communities as a core component of its Smart + Connected framework to drive and secure sustainable economic growth for the region. Council is also increasingly aware of the need for Marlborough to develop increased regional resilience.
Council Has Engaged Creative
Marlborough District Council has engaged specialist support from Creative Development Solutions (Creative) led by Brendon Burns and Dayal Phillips who largely wrote Council's response to the MBIE ROI-Support process. Council has asked Creative to undertake work to ensure that Marlborough is best positioned for its digital future, the uptake of contributing government funding plus the improvement of broadband delivery and uptake across Marlborough, all in alignment with the Smart and Connected strategy.
Creative is also commencing work on a regional broadband deployment scoping study. This will investigate and progress access and technical solutions for high-speed wireless deployment which would cover all of Marlborough and potentially reach all but about 1% of remote and rural population, including the Marlborough Sounds.
This project would deliver on Council’s requirements for Smart compliance monitoring for water and other rural and remote uses. It would also provide Marlborough residents and business with affordable fast internet, allowing economic development and growth based on knowledge, education and connectivity. In particular improved public health and safety would also be achieved by extending cellphone coverage.
If you would like assistance to do something similar, then please contact Creative.