The funding of ultra-fast broadband for schools has been a policy aim of the National Government since at least 2008. With the formal introduction of the Rural Broadband Initiative, a goal of 97% coverage was set for schools connected to at least 100mbps broadband. That 97% figure has been repeated often, including in a speech by Stephen Joyce at the 2010 TUANZ Rural Broadband Symposium.
Based on February 2011 statistics from the Ministry of Education, Chorus published data on the Rural Broadband Initiative, and Crown Fibre Holdings releases on New Zealand’s 33 UFB regions, it is evident that that the funding provided by the Telecommunications Amendment Bill will fall short of policy aims, and will leave a significant number of schools and students connected to consumer-grade ADSL connections. The particular schools missing out and their location details are detailed on this blog in an article entitled “Broadband for Schools – Rural Communities Miss Out“. The charts below seek to quantify the problem.
The first chart shows that of 2573 schools, only 82% will be covered by the combined UFB and RBI programs. It also shows that more schools are covered by the RBI program than are left out.
Many rural schools are however small. The second chart examines the total roll (February 2011) of the schools, and shows that 85% of the student roll will be covered by UFB or RBI funding. It also shows that the number of unfunded students (107,000) is 45% greater than the number of students funded by RBI (74,000).
A further analysis of schools and students shows that secondary students – those closer to tertiary study and/or the workforce and arguably in greater need of broadband – in unfunded schools outnumber those in RBI funded schools by 4:1.
The significant amount of students – especially secondary students – in unfunded schools should give pause to Members of Parliament who are being called on to support the Telecommunications Amendment Bill. Without amendment of the $300 Million dollar RBI program funded by the bill, 107,000 students (including 41,200 secondary students) could be left without ultra fast broadband.