Internet in rural areas

Internet connectivity might be an issue when providing telehealth services in rural areas. Better connectivity is vital to realise the potential of telehealth to improve equitable access to health care.

Rural broadband, where available, has come through the traditional copper lines. Problems associated with copper lines are the relatively slow connection speeds, the distance to the cabinet matters, and they can degrade with environmental factors.

Fibre is the best broadband available in New Zealand, delivering the fastest speeds. The distance to the cabinet does not matter with fibre. Hence, the eventual goal for New Zealand is fibre to the home. Fibre is in the government–funded ultrafast broadband initiative.

RBI Stage 1The first stage of the government’s Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) brought faster internet connections to a number of rural hospitals and practices. For example, faster internet connection has improved data linkages between Hokianga Hospital and the central GP clinic in Rawene and nine remote primary health clinics.

Stage two of the RBI roll-out is in progression. It seeks to “provide high speed broadband to the greatest number of under-served rural end users within the funding available, and contribute towards achieving similar rates of access to high-speed broadband by rural end users across all regions of New Zealand.”

It is important for customers to call their internet service provider (ISP) and ask for faster speeds or a newer connection.

About three percent of New Zealanders are not sufficiently close to a cabinet (for anything more than copper) or have no copper lines at all. Therefore the Internet is generally slower and more expensive.

Other technology options are:

  • cellular with mobile broadband (ISPs might offer broadband plans to those with a good cellphone signal)
  • wireless broadband, which needs an antenna on the property that has a line of sight to a radio nest and are generally operated by a local wireless internet service provider (WISP)
  • satellite internet using a fixed dish (with associated set-up costs and Internet that might be expensive and slow)

Rural Broadband

A list of RBI Service Providers is here

The Rural

The Rural also lists rural broadband options here

National Broadband Map

The National Broadband Map is a tool to help find available broadband access and the likely delivery speeds. The tool includes coverage maps from almost every broadband supplier, and represents fibre, cable, copper based broadband, and wireless technologies. It is available here