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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 24th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Rural broadband - an opportunity

28 May 2018

When I was a young lad in my early 20's, one of the jobs that kept me busy was the installation of television translators designed to beam signals into small pockets of population where reception would otherwise be impossible.

Although such systems cost quite a bit of money, there was no shortage of people willing to pay for the privilege of receiving a TV signal.

I think the last one of these I installed was at Lochinvar Station back in about 1978 or 1979 and it was quite an easy way to earn good money -- for a young fellow who was willing to drive out into the boonies with a van-load of gear and enough knowledge to set everything up.

Why am I mentioning this today?

Well on the weekend I read a news story about how there is quite a sizable number of rural people who, short of spending $300/month for 12GB via satellite, simply have no form of broadband internet access.

What an opportunity!

Broadband today, is much like television was back in the 1970s.

Everybody wants it... but to geographical constraints, not everyone can get it.

So where are the entrepreneurs who are getting out there and creating WiFi repeater stations and links to service those in the extreme rural community that are unable to get fibre, DSL or cellular broadband?

Hell, it would even cheaper today to install an broadband-repeater system than it was cost to install a TV translator some 40 years ago (inflation adjusted).

Most (if not all) of the hardware could be bought off AliExpress for chump-change and once you'd prototyped a solar/wind-powered relay station, producing them in small quantities would be very simple and easy. The next task would be to find a place where you could create an access point to the UFB or DSL network. That would send a WiFi signal to the repeater (or a string of repeaters) until the signal reached the desired location.

This simply isn't rocket surgery... certainly within the capacities of any eager young entrepreneur with half a bucket of smarts and a bucket of enthusiasm.

Hell, if I could do this 40 years ago with TV signals, surely there has to be someone out there who could make a fine living delivering broadband to otherwise inaccessible locations at prices which would knock satellite out of the park.

Or perhaps there is already someone doing this... in which case, what was the newspaper story droning on about?

All the parts have never been cheaper and perhaps the only hassle (these days) might be getting permission from the local Iwi, DOC or whoever's land you need to locate a repeater station (or two).

Come to think of it... based on the tales of woe I've heard, that permission thing could be a real roadblock. Nah... I don't think *I* will bother... but someone should.

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