Whangateau residents have run up against a brick wall in their efforts to get ultrafast broadband installed in their community.
The village of around 35 homes that mostly sit along Leigh Road was considered too small to be included in the government’s ultrafast rollout launched 10 years ago.
This is despite the fact that the internet cable that runs past the front of their homes is the same cable that Chorus, the entity that operates the national fibre network, hooked into when connecting Leigh village.
Whangateau Residents and Ratepayers secretary Audrey Sharp says in March, a resident who asked Chorus about getting connected to the cable was told funding from the government only extended to the urban areas of Leigh, Matakana and Omaha.
Sharp then contacted Labour MP Marja Lubeck who, in turn, queried Digital Economy and Communications Minister Dr David Clark on getting connected, but without a positive outcome.
There would be an additional $60 million spent on rural connectivity in the future, he advised, but how this would be allocated hadn’t been decided yet.
Chorus external communications head Steve Pettigrew understands the residents’ frustrations but says Chorus can’t just plug into the existing cable as it is transport cable.
The fibre network works in a similar way to a motorway where the suburban roading network needs on and off ramps.
An entry/exit point needs to be installed with a different type of cable than had been used to run along in front of houses, usually under the berm, that they could then connect to with fibre leading to individual houses.
“But there is earthmoving work needed and ducts need to be installed to run the fibre through.
Telephone cables are also likely already run under the berm as well. Chorus can charge small communities to get connected, but it’s an expensive exercise.”
Pettigrew says the smallest community to get a privately funded connection to the fibre network was Haast, in the South Island, with around 80 houses. The most successful was at Coatesville with over 600 houses, where the government did provide some funding. But with a price tag of between $5000 and $10,000 per property, it is too expensive for most small communities, he says.
After a meeting on June 14, residents are now unsure what their next step should be. A letter to government seeking funding is being considered and some residents are looking into the satellite broadband option through Starlink.