A group of four Northland schools is the first in the country to log onto the government's ultrafast broadband initiative, with a fifth set to be connected in the weeks ahead.
Manaia View Primary School, which was the first to receive fibre optic cabling under the UFB plan, was the first to go live. Principal Leanne Otene said the 50-megabit service was already making a significant difference.
"We're uploading and downloading video incredibly quickly and the iPod Touches in use in our classrooms are humming. We now have an innovative broadband service to match the way we teach," she says.
The school formed a buying group with four others in the area – Whangarei Intermediate, Blomfield Special School, Whangarei Primary and Morningside School – in order to to benefit from lower pricing.
"Partnering with other schools in the area to form a cluster was incredibly beneficial – not just in terms of pricing but also support and advice – and we would encourage other schools to do the same.
"The 20GB international data cap and free domestic data deal we've negotiated is great. It means we can connect and collaborate with any other New Zealand school without worrying about the bill," Otene said.
Regional TV station Channel North, which is co-located with Manaia View, has also plugged into the service for future delivery of its broadcasts over the internet.
Whangarei was the first area in the country to have UFB deployed thanks to a partnership between Crown Fibre Holdings and Northpower. The government set up Crown Fibre Holdings to manage the $1.5 billion national fibre rollout.
Orcon, which delivered the fibre to the cluster in partnership with Orewa-based internet service provider Watchdog Corporation Ltd, is expecting high demand from the education sector.
"It's all about speed, and the benefits that come from that. A fibre connection opens up a world of possibilities, such as high definition video conferencing and cloud computing where teaching tools and school administration systems can be accessed remotely," said chief executive Scott Bartlett.
"This is about the transformation of the telecommunications marketplace, not just the infrastructure, and it's an exciting time to be in our industry."
Bartlett said UFB was capable of delivering data download speeds around 60 times faster than DSL speeds obtainable over existing copper phone lines.
"Speed is especially important for schools because they have a lot of people connected to the internet at the same time and they download big chunks of information. Fibre optic cables can carry larger amounts of data over longer distances and faster than any other internet method."
Watchdog director, Peter Mancer hoped the rollout would drive increased interest in the use of cloud services within the education sector.
"Today's announcement about UFB will be of huge interest to the many schools around the country looking to make use of cloud-based services such as Moodle, KnowledgeNET and Google Apps," he said.