Pilot project provides cheaper, faster internet connection for rural residents

posted Nov 9, 2016, 11:48 PM by Dayal Phillips

A fast, efficient and affordable internet broadband and cellphone service is a step closer for an isolated rural Marlborough community.

Contractors this week erected a 5.5 metre high mast to provide internet connection to 25 households in the Waihopai Valley.

The mast, perched on top of a 750m high hill near the Waihopai Dam, will provide uninterrupted line of sight wireless service between the valley and Blenheim, 40 kilometres away.

Residents would receive 50Mb/second internet connection at a cost, to each of the 25 households already signed up, of $100 per month.

Previously the majority of homes in the valley were contracted to a rural satellite service to provide internet connection at a higher cost.

Cellphone coverage for residents was unreliable because of the narrow, rugged and winding topography of the valley.  Lack of cellphone coverage caused communication problems for many residents when a large fire broke out on a ridge above the valley last summer.  

Residents were unable to be alerted to the fire danger as it threatened to sweep down the valley and engulf homes, a homeowner said.

The new pilot service was a joint project between the Marlborough District Council, internet provider Pacific.Net, Creative Development Solutions and Simcox Contractors.  Another pilot project was planned in the valley at a later date.  Residents expect to be connected to the new service within three weeks.

Land owners Ernslaw One had provided access on company-owned forest land to the site.

"There was a real need for a decent, reliable internet service which would provide high speed broadband to residents," a project spokesman said.  "This pilot project will ensure a unified network and services to the community," he said.

The new service would help alert wineries to early frost detection in vineyards in the valley, and improve communications and health and safety for forestry crews using cellphones. 

- The Marlborough Express
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