New Zealanders all across the country are set to enjoy high-speed broadband by 2019. The Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) initiative has received a lot of hype and predictions that it will transform the way that Kiwis learn, do business and connect with each other and the rest of the world. Sounds great – but what does it really mean for you and me? And how much is it costing us?

Who will benefit?

The UFB initiative is slated to provide ultra-fast broadband to 75% of New Zealanders, predominately in urban areas. The remaining 25% shouldn’t despair, however, as the government has also launched the “Rural Broadband” Initiative for smaller and/or rural communities. Phew!

Why is fast internet a big deal?

Hollywood actress Whitney Cummings was once reported to have said “Before you marry a person, you should first make them use a computer with slow internet to see who they really are”. A slow connection can be extremely frustrating, but ultra-fast broadband is about much more than that.

With speedier connections, we can not only access more information but also do more *with* that information. Businesses can raise productivity; teleconferencing with overseas partners will become more streamlined and; pipeline innovations such as telemedicine which rely on faster and better connections can become today’s realities!

How will it affect life at home?

The first thing you’ll notice is that all devices in your home connected to the internet will have faster, more reliable broadband. That may not seem like a big deal at the moment, but imagine the possible range of technologies that the average Kiwi home will have in 10 or 15 years. Fridges that automatically put in an order to the local supermarket when you’re getting low on milk? Who knows? But whatever it is, the UFB initiative will make sure that you’re ready for the future.

When will I get it?

Indirectly, you may already be benefitting. At the moment, the initiative is focusing on priority areas such as education, businesses and healthcare. This is because the benefits enjoyed by these areas are expected to flow on to the rest of the country. Additionally, in some urban centres and in new subdivisions across the country, smaller internet service providers such as Orcon, Snap and Slingslot are already offering ultra-fast connections. Talk to your provider or go to Chorus to find out more.

How much will it cost?

Ah, the million dollar question. Or, more correctly, the $3.5 billion dollar question. That’s a lot of morning lattes, so is it really worth it? Bell Labs, an American research and development organisation commissioned to do a preliminary study on the UFB project, say “yes”.

It’s estimated that upon completion, the initiative will net New Zealand economic benefits of about $33 billion over 20 years. Almost half of this will be for businesses who are expected to save $14.2 billion due to increased productivity and reduced costs in other areas such as travel. Let’s just hope this results in lower consumer prices for the rest of us!

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