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Organisers of a road show demonstrating the potential of high speed Internet services to Fonterra's shareholders were overwhelmed with the response.

More than 1800 Fonterra suppliers registered for the road show meetings, which concluded last week, providing a strong indication of the importance shareholders attach to getting improved telecommunications services. About 1000 Fonterra suppliers who were unable to attend have requested more information about the initiative.

Fonterra Chief Executive Craig Norgate says the purpose of the road show was to make as many shareholders as possible aware of the meaning and potential of improved communications infrastructure.

"We wanted large numbers of our suppliers to attend these meetings and to tell us if they wanted access to these services.

"The company believes access to high speed Internet services will increase on-farm efficiency and improve information transfer, instrumental to our suppliers maintaining their competitive advantage as the world's lowest cost milk producers," Mr Norgate says. "The results from the road show indicate many of our suppliers also believe there are considerable advantages to high speed services."

The road show was held in eight venues throughout the country in conjunction with Telecom and Broadcast Communications Limited. At the meetings, suppliers were presented with a proposed FonterraNet package.

Attendees were asked to fill in feedback forms, with more than 80% classing themselves as 'extremely likely' or 'probably likely' to subscribe to the package if it proceeds. Less than 4% were unlikely, with the remainder wanting more information.

The proposed FonterraNet package offers Fonterra suppliers high speed internet access, including access to a Private Network Service connecting all FonterraNet users with each other in a secure environment.

FonterraNet is likely to include flat fee unlimited internet surfing and free phone calls to other subscribers within the network. It has special broadband applications where suppliers will be able to monitor production, receive training and Fonterra communications in a more graphical and user-friendly format and there is also on-going technical and user support via a designated help line.

The proposal will be delivered by one of four technologies, with the majority of Fonterra suppliers likely to receive the network via a wireless service, delivered through BCL's network of transmission towers

The net monthly cost of the package would be about $80 for about 80% of Fonterra's suppliers.

Fonterra will work with Telecom to further develop the proposal and is also continuing to canvass shareholders on their likely support with a planned mail out and an independent survey.

Company representatives met with Government officials a second time earlier this month and discussed potential synergies between the FonterraNet proposal and the Government's Project Probe initiative.

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