NZ now has a league of broadband heroes - NZWIP

The real heroes of rural broadband have taken a break from bringing the best broadband to rural NZ for long enough to form an organisation and get the ability to speak with a single voice and engage with the 'Wellington' labyrinth, the mysterious beltway triangle linking MBIE, the Commerce Commission and Parliament.

I was at their inaugural meeting and I wish them luck and success, here's the official release:

More than 20 representatives from independent New Zealand wireless broadband providers have met in Wellington and resolved to form an industry group to jointly address issues facing their industry and speak to central government with one voice.

The meeting in Wellington was initially set up to hear presentations from RSM, InternetNZ and TUANZ, and work towards a combined submission to the current review of the Radiocommunications Act, but it soon became obvious that most providers faced similar issues and there was much common ground.

“By mid-morning on the second day, members were able to agree on the aims and principles of the new organisation and elect officers to represent the group,” says newly-elected President Justin Wells of Nelson-based Thepacific.net.

The group will be known as the New Zealand Wireless Internet Providers Association (NZWIP). Full membership will be available to wireless broadband providers with a minimum of 200 end-point wireless customers, and other organisations such as equipment suppliers and sole operators will be able to apply for associate membership.

The group will share resources and also provide statistics on an anonymous basis so that the overall size of this part of the telecommunications industry can be established.

“We expect we will find that this group serves in excess of 80,000 customers throughout New Zealand,” says Mr Wells. “Almost all of us are privately funded companies set up by entrepreneurs who have become expert in bringing decent broadband speeds to remote rural areas where the traditional providers were unable or unwilling to go. Ask any farmer or rural town-dweller who is their broadband provider and you’ll most likely find that it’s a relatively small, local company. Our advantage is that we know our territory, we understand the local geography and we know our customers. It’s a business model that works, even if it’s one that has suffered from missing out on government funded rural broadband initiatives which have made money available only to companies who could provide national coverage. That’s an issue that has been really frustrating for us all, as we’ve had to deal with taxpayer-funded competition.”

Mr Wells said the group was encouraged to see Minister Amy Adams’ pre-election announcement that National would make $100 million of contestable funding available which independent wireless providers would be able to access.

“This is a huge step forward and an acknowledgement that our members have been out there closing the digital divide for over a decade – taking kiwi ingenuity, combining it with technical know-how and making things happen in rural New Zealand.”

I know these guys can make a difference because 10 years ago I got my rural broadband issues in Marlborough solved by the pacific.net, in fact that's what started the whole process that leads me to being here today.

Their timing is right and they will delivered the best bang for the buck possible.