Ultrafast Broadband Rollout Increases Access in Deprived Urban Areas

May 11, 2018

The New Zealand Government has spent over $1 billion since 2008 developing an ‘ultra-fast broadband’ (UFB) network. A new study from Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Trust looks at the access that New Zealanders have to this rollout, with special attention given to access for those living in deprived areas and for Māori.

“Our analysis shows New Zealand’s fibre rollout has positively addressed lack of access to ultrafast broadband based both on material deprivation and – within urban areas – on ethnicity,” said Dr Arthur Grimes, a Senior Fellow at Motu.

 “Within urban areas, Māori are more likely to live in areas that have UFB access. However, because main urban areas, which have the best fibre access, have the lowest proportion of Māori residents, overall Māori as a group are slightly less likely to have fibre access,” said Dr Grimes.

The analysis finds that areas identified as more deprived tend to have better access to current or planned fibre.

“Our study indicates that the digital divide has decreased because internet access comes first to denser areas, and denser areas tend to be more deprived,” said Dr Grimes.

“The analysis does not, however, look at a household’s decision to take advantage of this new infrastructure. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean that everyone can or does use it,” said Dr Grimes.

The study examined how much influence historical decisions still have today, by testing whether areas that had the best railway access in the 1880s also have the best access to new fibre internet infrastructure. Similarly to ultrafast broadband today, railway access in those times was affected by remoteness and difficult topography.

“Only 40 percent of people in urban areas lacking 1880s railway because of the specifics of their location have fibre and fast broadband, while 66 percent of those living in areas with 1880 railways have access. However, once the updated UFB rollout is complete, that disparity should disappear,” said Dr Grimes.

The study, “Is internet on the right track? The digital divide, path dependence, and the rollout of New Zealand’s ultra-fast broadband” by Eyal Apatov, Nathan Chappell and Arthur Grimes received funding from Huawei New Zealand.


Summary haiku:

New fibre broadband:
Addressing deprivation
In urban areas.