Wi-Fi hot spot ‘too challenging’

Off the rails . . . A project led by Strath Taieri Community Board member Norma Emerson to get a Wi-Fi hot spot in Middlemarch has stalled. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

A project to get a Wi-Fi hot spot at Middlemarch Railway Station has derailed as Chorus calls the cost “too challenging”.

Strath Taieri Community Board member Norma Emerson said she applied, on behalf of the board, for $10,000 from the GigCity Community Fund to get a Wi-Fi hot spot installed at Middlemarch Train Station about three years ago.

The fund was established after Dunedin won a Gigatown competition in November 2014.

Telecommunications infrastructure provider Chorus ran the competition to inspire New Zealanders about the possibilities that an ultra-fast broadband connection could provide.

After the city won, the Dunedin Community Trust was established and the fund was opened.

Mrs Emerson said she applied for funding because internet connectivity was “patchy” in Middlemarch and a hot spot would benefit its residents, businesses and tourists.

The application was declined three years ago but when the fund closed last year, money remained and $10,000 was given for internet solution provider Unifone to install and maintain a Wi-Fi hot spot at Middlemarch Station.

A quote by Unifone to install the hot spot remained the same as three years ago but the work was unable to start.

Last week, Mrs Emerson got an email from Unifone NZ operations manager Tom Osborne saying the installation had stalled because Chorus had told it VDSL broadband was not available at Middlemarch Station.

Mrs Emerson questioned the response from Chorus “because I have VDSL at my house”.

Her home, which is located about 500m from the station, has had VDSL for more than four years.

“Why does Chorus keep denying we have VDSL in Middlemarch when we know we have .. I need answers from Chorus.”

Chorus spokesman Nathan Beaumont, in an email to Taieri Times, said its infrastructure in Middlemarch had been upgraded to resolve ongoing issues with slower broadband speed in the area.

“About seven customers in Middlemarch were able to apply and then get VDSL when the upgrade was completed, but we no longer offer VDSL to residents, so we can ensure there is enough capacity on the network for everyone.”

To upgrade all of the town to VDSL would require about 49km of fibre being laid to connect to its closest network near Outram.

“The estimated cost of doing this work is about $3.4million and unfortunately, due to the cost, the economics for an upgrade in this area remain too challenging for us.”