Broadband for Schools – Rural Communities Miss Out

With the “Telecommunications (TSO, Broadband, and Other Matters) Amendment Bill“, Government hopes to fund two programmes to deliver broadband to all New Zealanders, with a focus on fibre for schools.

The Rural Broadband Initiative has been awarded to Telecom and Vodafone. Telecom will supply fibre connections to around 750 schools, servicing 74,000 students, and will upgrade around 1000 ADSL cabinets along the way. Vodafone will improve cellular phone coverage, and broadband coverage in areas unreachable by ADSL.

The Ultra Fast Broadband initiative will develop a new fibre infrastructure in New Zealand’s 33 largest cities and towns, over which retail service providers will be able to purchase a wholesale broadband service. Around 1340 schools and 550,000 students should be covered by this new broadband service.

Based on documents released at the conclusion of negotiations for the RBI however, it is apparent that close to 500 470 schools, servicing 114,000 108,000 students, will get no fibre at all through the current process. The MED, in response to questions about these schools, states that they should be able to get access to ADSL2+, and that “A procurement process is likely to commence in 2012-13”. (Updated figures 2011-05-16)

The map below shows the unfunded schools in red – based on likely boundaries for UFB projects. It is possible that some schools in red will get UFB, but it also possible that the number of unconnected schools will grow as UFB boundaries are released. Green (when selected via the pull-down menu) markers indicate likely UFB funded schools, and turquoise markers indicate confirmed RBI funded schools.

[iframe http://www.telco2.co.nz/schoolmap.html 680px 790px]

The data for the above map was aggregated from a number of sources, including New Zealand’s Ministry of Education, Telecom NZ’s Chorus division, and the Ministry of Economic Development’s Broadband Map. Approximately 70% of the schools in the 2,500+ row data set had either missing or incorrect address or location data, and a great deal of manual manipulation of data was required to place locations. If a school is in the wrong place on the map, please send an email and it will be corrected.

9 thoughts on “Broadband for Schools – Rural Communities Miss Out

    • You’re absolutely correct – a few schools have fibre from Inspire. Of the ~500 or so schools missing out on funding there could be as many as 20 with existing alternative fibre. Whether this will allow them to connect to future schools networks is a different story! For example, the the government is funding Telecom to re-fibre several schools already connected to the Nelson Loop and not asking Telecom to buy a service from Network Tasman. It begs the question – what will happen to schools on Inspire?

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  1. A significant portion of those dots have not only access to ADSL2+ but are close enough to enjoy the VDSL2 product offering which is 30Mbps and faster when it launches. Also VDSL2, as with ADSL2+ is designed to be able to port bond so you can theoretically achieve 100Mbps with as little as 3 copper pairs.

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    • John, you’re right. Most of these schools do have access to ADSL2+. That brings upload speeds of around 1mbps. VDSL2 – when it launches, is a little better, with peak uploads near the exchange of 10mbps. Upload falls to 1mbps at 1500M from the exchange. Port bonding multiplies existing asymmetric numbers in a linear fashion. Copper digital subscriber lines are still consumer products – suited to homes and small businesses. Expecting a school to engage in e-learning activities (which for rural schools can lead to huge cost savings) with uplink speeds of 1-10mbps is worse than short-sighted.

      In my native Kansas, rural schools and health clinics were using 10mbps symmetric fibre connections in the mid 1990s. The symmetric bit is important – it means that video can be two-ways, enabling remote consultations with medical specialists, speech therapists, and school tutors. In 1997 while at the University of Kansas I administered servers with 2.4gbps wide area network connections. That was 14 years ago. What do New Zealand universities have today, in 2011?

      Copper DSL connections are a poor excuse for a learning tool – and an insult to the principals of rural centre schools with hundreds of students. You may say that DSL is “good enough” or “better than what they had”, but that’s the thinking that confines New Zealand to poverty. Technology adoption and step changes in behavior with regards to technology happen in the schools – not in the residential neighborhoods that make elections.

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  2. Actually the upload is faster than what you have claimed due to the bandplan employed here in NZ. At the port it is 20Mbps on 8b Profile and is still above 10Mbps at more than 500M out. 20Mbps can be achieved at 500M with the 17a Profile which isn’t tied to a product currently.

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  3. As a VDSL2 triallist on Telecom Wholesale’s service, about 500 metres away from the cabinet, I get 40Mbps downloads on Profile 8b; on 17a, 70Mbps which is what Telecom limits VDSL2 to. In both cases, the upload speed is limited to 10Mbps, with the maximum attainable rate just over 30Mbps.

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    • All good Juha – but with six-core direct bury suitable fibre at NZD $1/M and gigabit optics at less than $40/end (even for CWDM and 120km optics) why are we even considering DSL as a solution for schools and health organizations?

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  4. I didn’t suggest VDSL2 is an alternative to fibre-optic networks. Took three years for me to get onto the VDSL2 trial and now, in 2011, FTTP is where it’s at. It’s nice to have the 10Mbps upload speed compared to ~800kbps on ADSL2+ but we can and should do better.

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