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Making use of existing city pipes and laying new ducting for fibre-optic cable while other work is carried out are two of the low cost options Wellington City Council will investigate as part of its bid to improve community access to fast, affordable broadband.
The measures were among a package of low and no cost initiatives that the Council's Strategy and Policy Committee yesterday (10 April 2008) agreed should be investigated further to advance its broadband vision for the city.
These included possible policy and District Plan changes to make Council assets like buildings, poles and unused pipes and ducts freely or cheaply available for the installation of open access (shared) broadband infrastructure and to ensure all new subdivisions have fibre-optic cabling.
Mayor Kerry Prendergast says broadband infrastructure is a critical issue for the city.
"The scene is rapidly changing, new players are coming in and new investment is happening, which is great," she says. "But when we look at where other countries are at, the rate of change and the assessment of not only Council staff but industry and Government commentators, it is clear that we still need to pick up the pace. First-rate communications technology is essential in retaining our competitive advantage, particularly given our remoteness."
She says the Government will continue to play a big role in broadband development.
"We'll continue to lobby the Government for funding support – particularly with regard to connecting organisations like schools, universities and hospitals. At the same time, it is possible a Council-owned duct network could be developed at modest cost using existing unused pipes and laying other ducting in conjunction with other road works and we need to investigate that."
The city has over 100 kilometres of pipes that are no longer used for their original purpose but could potentially carry cable. Technological advances mean sheathed cable can also be put through pipes that are used for other purposes and the Council will be looking at its stormwater network with this in mind.
It will also carry out a shallow trenching trial to assess the benefits and risks. Shallow, or micro trenching is a new technology which can reduce the cost of installing fibre-optic cable underground but it can't be used here at the moment because it doesn't meet existing trenching requirements.