$15 broadband from Spark to help bridge digital divide

has announced:

Spark announced today a new social programme to bring heavily subsidised to thousands of New Zealand children whose families cannot afford commercial home services.

Spark Jump is an innovative programme for social change. Collaborating with community groups and government agencies, Spark will offer families at risk of digital exclusion entry-level home broadband for as little as $15 – about a quarter the price of the cheapest commercial services available.

“Digital inequality, especially when it comes to online learning, is a significant challenge for New Zealand. Every day, tens of thousands of children do not have access to home broadband and come home from school unable to continue their online learning,” Spark Managing Director Simon Moutter said.

“At Spark, we believe New Zealand children deserve to have the opportunity to learn and thrive in the modern digital economy. Spark Jump is our way of helping solve this Digital Divide, by ensuring children have digital access both at school and in the home. It’s very much part of Spark’s overall ambition to ‘unleash the potential in all New Zealanders through amazing technology’.”

Spark Jump will offer selected families a 30GB no-frills broadband service for just $15. To offer flexibility for families, Spark Jump is pre-paid, no fixed-term contract and includes a modem while they are using the service. The service uses the Skinny Broadband platform and provides “wireless” home broadband via a 4G mobile signal connecting with the nearest cell tower.

This is a great move by Spark. While the vast majority of homes in New Zealand have Internet access, there are some who do not, as they can’t afford it. This does put them at a disadvantage, especially any kids in the house.

A $15 a month service is very affordable. That is 50 cents a day. Of course it is no frills being capped at 30 GB so won’t be a service for people to be able to do intensive gaming or video on. But it will be more than enough for e-mail web browsing and the like.

Spark Jump will be administered by Spark Foundation, the registered charity funded by Spark and governed independently by a Board of Trustees. Spark Foundation will partner with local community-based organisations who will identify and refer eligible families.  

Spark Foundation Chair Nick Leggett says learnings from the Foundation’s four-year partnership with digital learning pioneer the Manaiakalani Education Trust led to the development of Spark Jump.  

“Our work with Manaiakalani has shown that the lack of home broadband is a barrier to New Zealand children’s learning and that whanau engagement plays a big role in children’s educational success. By enabling whanau to support digital learning with home broadband, we can help build on the effectiveness of the Government’s efforts to improve broadband access within schools, through the rollouts of ultrafast fibre and the Network for Learning (N4L) managed network.” 

Spark hopes to make Spark Jump available to at least 5,000 families over the coming 12 months and is looking to collaborate with government agencies and community groups to scale to higher volumes.  

I’ve been really impressed with how Spark has done since it was separated from the monopoly aspects of Chorus and has had to go from a patch protecting incumbent to a more nimble competitor. They led the way on chopping mobile roaming rates, and have led the way again with this.

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