National’s UFB goal would bring fibre-optic broadband to another 3 per cent of homes.
The National Party has promised to expand the ultrafast broadband network to cover 90 per cent of homes within 10 years if elected, bringing fibre broadband to about another 50,000 households.
The current UFB target is to cover 87 per cent of homes by 2022, after two previously expansions from the original goal – which was achieved – of providing 75 per cent coverage by this year.
Party leader Judith Collins also committed to increase the performance target of the rural broadband initiative (RBI).
Its new goal would be to ensure almost all of the remaining 10 per cent of homes could get uncapped 100 megabit per second broadband using copper or wireless technologies by 2030.
* Extra $270m for rural broadband ‘more than Federated Farmers was expecting’
* The fewer the moving parts, the smoother the broadband policy
* Government sets 50Mbps target for rural broadband by 2025
It estimated the cost of those investments at $1 billion.
A party statement that it would also aim to deliver “100Mbps uncapped internet speeds for everyone using ultra-fast broadband” has appeared to cause some confusion.
Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Craig Young said that appeared “pretty pointless” given that anyone with access to the UFB network could already buy gigabit uncapped plans from a wide range of internet providers.
But, overall, Young gave National’s technology plan “7 out of 10”.
National’s new 90 per cent UFB coverage goal would take fibre to more small settlements and offering 100Mbps uncapped plans to all RBI customers would be a “significant improvement” for them, he said.
“Rolling out fibre a bit further isn’t a bad commitment to make.
“The other side of that is it frees up capacity on other networks.”
An uncapped 100Mbps RBI target would be achievable “if you invested enough”, he said.
Another positive was its plan to offer 1000 tertiary scholarships annually to students from low decile schools to undertake science, technology, engineering and maths degrees, he said.
National would also restore funding to ICT graduate schools that were put in place by former economic development minister Steven Joyce but axed under Labour.
It would set up three, $200m venture capital funds that would see the Government invest alongside private-sector investors to provide capital and expansion funding to tech start-ups.
Comment has been sought from National on whether these would be run by the existing Crown-owned Venture Investment Fund (NZVIF) which was set up by Labour 2002 with a seemingly similar original brief.
Young believed the significance of a commitment by National to appoint a “minister of technology” would come down to the detail.
Both Labour and National used to appoint a minister who had the title of being “minister of communications and information technology”, but that title has been abbreviated to communications minister for recent appointments.
In order for it not to be case of simply renaming an existing position, the technology portfolio would need to be the primary portfolio of the new appointee and they would need to be in Cabinet, he said.
“It is more around whether that person has high enough ranking in Cabinet to show the value of it.”