By Tony Field
A number of schools that have had ultrafast broadband links installed say they just cannot afford to use them.
Among them is Matakana School, which has had the technology for over six months but does not have the $12,000 a month to use it.
The school was delighted when late last year the Ministry of Economic Development connected them to the ultrafast broadband network, but principal Darrel Goosen says the connection came with a catch.
“What we didn’t realise is there is no one who would provide the service,” he says. “We are not even 100km from Auckland, we are part of the Auckland super city. I don’t believe we are totally out in the wop wops here.”
Over half a year later, only one company has even been willing to give them a quote for a data plan.
The school's current internet provider has offered it a deal to provide ultra fast broadband, but depending on the speed it would cost the school anywhere from $2,900 to $12,000 a month.
Mr Goosen says that is quite a leap from the $160 a month the school is currently paying for regular broadband.
“It defies imagination, it is impossible for schools to cope with that amount,” he says.
Jill Corkin is the principal of nearby Snell’s Beach School and president of the Auckland Primary Principals' Association, and says that other schools are having the same problem.
“We are aware of other schools, particularly rural fringe schools, that have had the fibre put in but are experiencing the same problem that we are in this area here,” she says.
The Ministry of Education has plans to offer affordable ultrafast broadband from the middle of next year, by which point around 1,500 schools will be connected. It is likely to negotiate a bulk deal on behalf of schools.
Mr Goosen says it will be a frustrating wait for those schools affected.
“We're sitting here, we're waiting, parents are anticipating, students are anticipating this change, and nothings happened,” he says.
For now, the ministry is advising schools to try to band together to negotiate affordable data plans.