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Prime Minister launches NZ’s first regional high-speed Internet initiative

New Zealand’s first Project PROBE broadband site - providing portable high speed Internet access to provincial communities and schools - was launched in Tuatapere, Southland, today by the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Helen Clark.

The initiative, which will provide high speed Internet access to 95 percent of Southland - traditionally one of New Zealand’s most remote communities - is a joint partnership between the Government and Venture Southland, the region’s economic agency supported by all of Southland’s local authorities.

For locals it will mean a state of the art Internet service, with files that have taken up to several hours to download previously now being done in minutes or seconds.

The project stimulates an overall investment of $50m, funded by Government, the local community and private enterprise.

Project PROBE* is a Government initiative using broadband technology to promote economic, social and education development in regional New Zealand.

The service in Southland is being installed by New Zealand-owned Woosh Wireless (previously Walker Wireless) and supported by Vodafone.

Woosh Wireless is to provide Project PROBE services in Northland and Wairarapa/Tararua regions from early 2004.

Said Venture Southland Strategic Projects Manager, Steve Canny: “Today is the first and an important step in our roll out of 22 wireless data sites throughout Southland during the next 18 months.

“Having global connectiveness is extremely important for our export-driven economy. Our Southland lifestyle also demands flexibility and the new broadband coverage allows innovation in the way we live and work.”

“Venture Southland – the region’s economic agency – has been working closely with Government agencies and Woosh Wireless to ensure the smooth roll out of the high bandwidth network in the region.”

“The mobile aspects of the Woosh service appeal to Southlanders who often need to travel long distances from home to work or school.”

The Southland “Whole of Community” Broadband Service springs from Venture Southland research in 2001 that showed that telecommunication service provision had been largely ignored in Southland.

Said Woosh Wireless Chief Executive, Bob Smith: “Access to Woosh’s broadband network provides the opportunity for Southland business to build on their competitiveness and also improve business efficiency.”

“Businesses in isolated areas will no longer be disadvantaged by outdated Internet connections.”

“Our mission is to bring broadband to all New Zealanders because that’s an imperative for economic growth. We are delighted that after years of neglect Southland is now leading the way.”

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