This week has seen a new law come into effect that is designed to make it easier for the thousands of people living down shared driveways or in apartment complexes to connect to the ultra-fast fibre broadband (UFB) network even if there have been previous objections from neighbours with conflicting property rights.
Nathan Beaumont, a spokesman for the largest fibre broadband network provider, Chorus, said its best estimate was that about 10,000 orders for fibre broadband had been blocked because of issues with property consents. He said that they now believe that with the new law in place, about 70 per cent of those orders could now proceed. If you were one of those - Compare fibre broadband plans now - Click here.
"It should make a big difference. We had quite a few cases of people being frustrated they couldn't get fibre because their neighbour said 'no', for no particular reason," he said.
Backing up the view from the network provider, the Communications Minister Simon Bridges said people who had previously faced difficulties, and wanted to try again, should directly contact an internet provider who will attempt to start the process again.
"The changes support the Government's ambitious UFB programme, helping us achieve our target of providing up to 85 per cent of New Zealanders with access to fibre by the end of 2024," he said.
The main difference in the new rules mean consent from affected neighbours may not be required if installation only involves disturbing soft surfaces such as grass, or stringing-up overhead cables that are deemed to have "minimal visual impact". This would likely include other surface level options like mounting the fibre cabling to a fence.
"For installs that require a bit more work – for example an incision about 1cm wide being made in a [shared] concrete drive to conceal a cable – neighbours will be provided a high-level design of what is proposed and will have 15 working days to object.
"If they don't object within the 15 working days, then their consent is deemed."
There will of course still be disputes and to handle that a new disputes resolution scheme run by Wellington company Utilities Disputes has been set up to handle the arguments that flow from the new rules.
Minister Bridges said this process would protect the interests of property owners while "ensuring that any disputes that arise as a result of the new consenting regime are dealt with fairly and efficiently".
Another change to the law will allow network builders to use existing infrastructure such as power poles to lay fibre in rural areas. This is great news for harder to reach areas.
With about 35 per cent of homes and businesses that could connect to the fibre broadband network already connected this new law change should see an even greater number take advantage of this fantastic technology.