Is NZ’s “broadband failure” sucking up more cash?

“The RBI could prove to be one of the most misguided spends of this National Government."

The Commerce Committee has blocked an inquiry into the $300 million rural broadband initiative (RBI) despite mounting evidence it’s a massive policy failure and waste of money.

That’s the view of Labour’s ICT spokesperson Clare Curran, who claims that the Government is about to spend an extra $150 million on a programme that “isn’t working.”

“The RBI could prove to be one of the most misguided spends of this National Government,” Curran claims.

“Labour believes the rural broadband scheme has let down our regions and there is an urgent need for evaluation before more money is spent.”

According to Curran, Labour voted in favour of the inquiry but a majority decision by the National-dominated committee saw the bid voted down.

“A recent Northland survey shows almost 86 per cent of users say they’re unhappy with their broadband internet services,” Curran adds.

“Only 4 per cent of the 1466 Northlanders surveyed were on ultra-fast broadband (UFB), with 75 per cent on copper broadband and just over one per cent still on dial-up.”

Furthermore, Curran claims that a 2014 Colmar Brunton survey of rural households and businesses found nearly 70 per cent felt left behind, restricted and frustrated with their internet services.

“In 2010 the Government promised to deliver enhanced broadband connections to 252,000 households and businesses,” she adds.

“Only 8,500 are connected to fixed wireless connections – that represents $7,000 per connection of the $60 million invested in that part of the programme.”

Curran says that the Minister and MBIE have admitted there has been no analysis of the $300 million expenditure to determine whether it has been effective and value for money.

“This is just another example of wasteful spending,” she adds. “The Government needs to connect all Kiwis, but do it smarter.”