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Health and education sectors to boost UFB uptake

Tuesday 24th January 2012

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The government’s ultra-fast broadband network should enjoy solid demand out of the health and education sectors, according to a Commerce Commission report.  

Education has “enormous potential demand” for high-speed internet services, while health service providers, rather than end consumers, will bolster early appetite for the programme, according to a demand-side study written by former Telecommunications Users Association chief Ernie Newman.

The government ring-fenced $150 million to invest in schools as part of its $1.5 billion programme to roll out a nationwide broadband network. Primary and secondary schools are already showing signs of “pent-up demand for connectivity” as students with personal digital devices are on-line all day.

That should drive further demand for residential connectivity, the report said. “The emerging expectation that a high proportion will be on-line at once, including use of bandwidth-hungry video, at school during the day and at home after that, means there is enormous potential demand for fast broadband,” the report said.

“The speed of uptake and amount of demand will depend on how well the telecommunications industry enables, markets and prices the services.”

The report found New Zealand’s health sector hasn’t embraced new technologies, and is being hindered by fragmented district health board information technology networks.

Work is under way to create greater alignment between DHBs to integrate IT structures, including private general practitioners.

“The main impact on demand for bandwidth will come as people become accustomed to more self-management of their health and wellness, using an ever-increasing pool of on-line video and multimedia content in support,” the report said.

The Commerce Commission undertook the probe into demand for high-speed internet after Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee reported back on the Telecommunications (TSO, Broadband and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, supporting a decade-long period of “regulatory forbearance” for winners of the UFB process to be free from the commission’s oversight.

The terms of reference for the probe attracted the ire of pay-TV operator Sky Network Television, which pressed for the removal of content distribution, saying it wasn’t relevant to the government’s objectives in rolling out its $1.35 billion broadband network, among other reasons.

The regulator wants to identify areas where high-speed broadband can enable significant efficiencies, and collate and coordinate existing data and research to understand the public’s expected use for fast internet.

It also wants to determine the best way to monitor the market as it develops.

The issues paper is the second of three ahead of next month’s broadband conference.


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