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Infrastructure: Tensions predicted where fibre meets the road

June 16th, 2010

The Govt’s national rollout of highspeed broadband services is seen as key to lifting the nation’s OECD performance ranking, but there are signs it may also give rise to “Nimby” syndrome as the fibre is physically rolled out along the highways and byways. The Ministry of Economic Development’s “deployment standards initiative,” a discussion document for the rollout, notes a number of territorial local authorities are “concerned about the need to protect roading assets and the integrity of the roads.”

The actual planning process involved in laying new cable is likely to be as challenging as Transpower’s efforts to upgrade the national grid, taking power pylons across farmland to strengthen the capacity into Auckland, for example. For their part, the companies making proposals to build parts of the national fibre network have sought certainty about how the resource consents will be treated by local bodies, especially where new or novel technologies are deployed, such as “shallow and micro-trenching.” The infrastructure companies have “expressed concerns over the costs and delays that accrue” because of variations in the way local authorities process the consents.

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Among state bodies flagging concern about the broadband plan is the NZ Transport Agency. Unfettered rights to make alterations to infrastructure to facilitate broadband, such as by altering lampposts, “could in fact be directly dangerous to road users.” NZTA’s broad thrust is transport corridors don’t need additional rules or requirements, which could ultimately be “unnecessary and unhelpful.”

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