Rural households need broadband’s speed but costs hinder uptake
Between 2009 and 2012, rural areas showed a 13% increase in internet access, says Statistics New Zealand.
In comparison there has been an 18.6% increase in urban areas, says the Household Use of Information and Communication Technology report.
In total, 221 rural households and 1439 urban households were surveyed.
The 2012 results show 78% of the 221 rural households, those in areas with a population of less than 1000, now have access to the internet.
Broadband in rural areas has increased 23.6%, a change from 55% of households in 2009 to 68% in 2012. Dial-up has decreased 61.9% from 21% of rural households to 8%.
Tom Linn, technical director of Wireless Nation, an internet service provider dealing with rural customers, says rural areas need broadband’s speed, but there are still issues getting it there.
“I think users have found out that they can’t use dial-up connections any more, as most websites are media-rich and it would be just too slow to load.”
He says rural internet users are making use of internet banking, email and software updates with some also social networking, downloading applications and using Youtube.
One of the biggest limitations to rural broadband is proximity to infrastructure such as broadband exchanges and wireless equipment, as well as the cost.
“Satellite broadband is expensive due to cost of specialised equipment, installation due to remoteness and spatial bandwidth to run,” Mr Linn says.
He says satellite broadband is the most efficient way to stimulate rural broadband uptake, but it will take time and significant capital outlay to build the infrastructure.
“I can only wish that government will consider some form [of] subsidy for rural customers to be able to afford satellite broadband, like in Australia.”
However, Turakina farmer Lois Smith gets her broadband from satellite and is not totally happy with it.
“This is the first time we’ve used satellite, as our other farms were accessible. We now live in a valley in the middle of nowhere.”
Ms Smith uses satellite broadband to run the software on her farm.
“We need internet to use software in the cowshed as well as around the home. It’s pretty slow, so is far more inconvenient than wired,” she says.
A spokesperson for internet service provider (ISP) Ultimate Broadband NZ says many farmers believe only Telecom can deliver broadband to their areas and have limited knowledge about the rural sector providers.
The ISP is also seeing an increase in uptake due to changes in government regulations.
“We are seeing a change and drive to get connected as more government requirements are put on the rural farming sector.”