Green Party proposes $100 million investment in second internet cable

Green Party proposes $100 million investment in second internet cable

The Green Party has released a discussion paper on its approach towards advancing New Zealand's IT sector, including a proposal to invest $100 million in a second international internet cable.

The ICT Green Paper  gives a high level view of opportunities and challenges facing New Zealand's IT community, which the Green Party says accounts for  6.2 percent of New Zealand's GDP.

The country's single international internet cable is noted as a priority issue in the document, with the Greens arguing a second cable is needed to bring down costs and improve resiliency in case of a disaster or technical fault (such as the one that occurred in November).

A second New Zealand international cable

"Our reliance on a single provider for our internet means higher prices, data caps, and less innovation. This stifles the full economic potential of the ICT sector," says Green Party co-leader Russel Norman.

"In time, capacity will become an issue too, potentially undermining the Government's $1.5 billion investment in ultra-fast broadband.

"A second cable system will finally break Telecom's monopoly on international internet provision."

The Southern Cross Cable, which connects New Zealand to the rest of the world, is 50 percent owned by Telecom and holds a monopoly for international bandwidth.

Paul Brislen, CEO of the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ), welcomes the document which he says is an encouraging sign of the increasing importance of New Zealand's tech scene.

"It really does help drive the discussion. All too often [the technology sector] tends to get completely ignored in favor of dairying," says Brislen.

"It aligns really nicely to the Green approach to things. Sustainability and limited impact on the environment. I don't understand why the Greens haven't been trumpeting IT solutions for longer." 

Following its failure in August, Pacific Fibre co-founder Rod Drury said a lack of domestic investment, especially from a government level, played a key role in why the venture didn't succeed.

Brislen says if the Green Party's effort comes to fruition, the $100 million investment will give confidence to other potential investors, something which was lost after the demise of the Pacific Fibre.

Education network provider REANNZ, which had a $91 million deal with Pacific Fibre for bandwidth, along with other investors in Pacific Fibre, might be coaxed into investing in a government-backed venture, says Brislen.

"To have a quarter of it underwritten by the government is a very good first step. It sends a very clear signal about how serious it is. You would hope that the government would also be able to put some pressure on its departments to purchase capacity on the cable, which would be a boon for investors coming in," says Brislen.

In November, Kim Dotcom proposed funding a second internet cable to support the launch of his new cloud locker and music business next year. Speaking to Idealog, Dotcom says he hasn't been approached by the Green Party, but is happy to help with furthering a second cable.

Also addressed in the Green Paper is an overhaul to government IT procurement policy, and addressing skills shortages for IT workers.

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