Government’s broadband network plan takes shape

If the Government’s multibillion dollar plan to deliver high-speed internet access 75 per cent of the population has been a little thin on detail to date, some revelations today point to how the scheme will work in general.

Communications minister Steven Joyce has called for submissions on his plan, which allows for a state-owned Crown Fibre Investment Co. to have overall responsibility for the network, working with telcos to build an open-access, dark fibre network.

As the minister puts it in the report issued today: “Dark fibre” refers to fibre optic cable which has been laid in the ground (or on poles) but which has not yet been made active. Fibre is made active by adding optical electronics at each end, to provide a working service. ISPs and other telecommunications providers can purchase access to dark fibre, add their own electronics, and then use it to provide a retail service.

In theory a wide range of players can get involved here at a regional level and lines companies are likely to be very keen to get involved. The timeline on the project calls for submissions on it to be in by April 27 and for proposals from telcos to be lodged by October. the CFIC is likely to make an initial call on its preferred participants by January. The plan calls for the country to be split into 25 contestable regions, with Auckland the largest covering over a quarter of the population. The other regions include: