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Slow uptake on ultra-fast broadband

Published: 6:57PM Saturday October 27, 2012 Source: ONE News

There has been slow uptake of ultra-fast broadband, a year after the first fibre-optic cables were laid.

Only 2000 homes have signed up for the service, even though more than 100,000 could hook up to the network.

The country's two biggest internet providers, Telecom and Vodafone, will not begin selling the service until next year, although Orcon began offering it in March.

Telecom says they are making sure the system is problem-free before they roll it out.

"We're doing a lot of testing and trialling to make sure the customer experience is a fantastic one," said Jason Paris, Telecom's Chief Marketing Officer.

"A few homes have got it at the moment and are trialling it and there's a little bit of error in that from what we hear," he said.

Rolling out ultra-fast broadband was a key election promise of National in 2008, with the party pledging more than $1billion to connect New Zealanders.

"We knew if would be low and slow over the first few years as people began to understand why fibre is so much better and what advantages it can give," said Amy Adams, Communications and Information Technology Minister.

Howick College was one of the first schools to connect to the network and teachers say the results have been impressive.

"It's probably the difference between a Mini and Ferrari," said science teacher Steve Martin.

"The important thing is the reliability, in showing animations, videos, interactive stuff. We know it's going to work and work at the right pace."

But there are questions about who will pay to connect homes to the network.

The Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand says it should be free because people are already paying for it through their taxes.

Communications Minister Adams said she expects it to be free for users in built-up areas, but she added: "It all depends on the circumstance of each individual homeowner."

Residential connections are free until the end of the year but the government has yet to confirm what will happen come January.

"The key thing for us is that they're free for this year and well before that's expired, we'll have some resolution about what the picture will be going forward," Adams said.