Analysis: Yay! Humans not hashtags! Chorus releases more details around $200K fund for winning Gigatown

Chorus has released new details around its previously-announced $200,000 innovation fund for the town that wins its seemingly endless Gigatown competition (see RAW DATA below).

The winning town will also get a $500,000 community development fund for the winning town (the finalists are Dunedin, Gisborne, Nelson, Timaru and Wanaka). And all residents will get cheap 1 gigabit UFB fibre from some time next year after the competition is finally decided in March 2015, at least for residents in UFB zones whose connection is provided by a participating retail ISP.

I won't relitigate my qualms about Gigatown here. I just hope it now gets back on track with its renewed focus on what broadband could do to lift each town, which will be decided by a judging panel made up of actual humans, not spam bots (see below).

The extended social media hashtag competition of the past year has only annoyed people and trivialised the UFB, so there's a lot of damage to be undone. It was particularly appalling to see Porirua spend around $100,000 on the competition in various efforts to get more of its citizens involved in its bid to move up the Gigatown spam leaderboard, only to miss out (for more that theme, and how Chorus mis-read Twitter, see Henry Cooke's Why #Gigatown was the worst social media campaign ever over on Stuff).

The better news is that Ultrafast Fibre (UFF) is now offering reasonably priced 1 gigabit per second wholesale connections to ISPs in its UFB areas (which include Hamilton and Tauranga), while industry talks are underway that should see 1 gigabit/s offered as a nationwide option from early next year.

$200,000 fund to kick-start innovation in the winning Gigatown

Chorus and Alcatel-Lucent’s ng Connect programme have launched a new fund today that will give New Zealand entrepreneurs and innovators the chance to win up to $200,000 to develop and market a new service concept that will run over gigabit ultra-fast broadband (UFB) in the winning Gigatown.

The Gig-Start Fund is now open for applications, and Chorus and Alcatel-Lucent’s ng Connect programme are calling for companies and individuals from across the country to dream big and put forward a compelling business case to help get their ideas for UFB service concepts off the ground in Gigatown.

In October 2013, Chorus launched its Gigatown competition, with 50 towns signing up to compete for the opportunity to become New Zealand’s first Gigatown. Five towns - Dunedin, Gisborne, Nelson, Timaru and Wanaka - are now competing in the final round and the winning Gigatown will be announced on 26 November, 2014, receiving 1Gbps UFB services across the town’s fibre footprint at entry level broadband prices.

To apply for the Gig-Start Fund, participants need to produce a short video describing their idea and the concept behind it, outline a business model, and technology and funding requirements.

Chorus Chief Commercial Officer Tim Harris says the Gig-Start Fund was established to spark innovation and help the winning Gigatown to leverage the economic benefits of UFB.

“Throughout the Gigatown competition, we've seen people truly inspired by what a country connected with UFB can achieve.

“Now we want to harness this inspiration and assist New Zealanders to create UFB-led services that they can launch and market in the winning Gigatown.”

Alcatel-Lucent Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, President and Managing Director, Sean O’Halloran, said UFB could transform the way Kiwi organisations approach innovation and service development.

“One of the great benefits of UFB is its capacity to drive innovation and new-to-market services.

“UFB is already enabling new value for New Zealand and Gigatown shows there is a great demand to accelerate the benefits across the country.”

Applications for the Gig Start-Fund will be judged by a panel of experts, including publisher of Idealog, Vincent Heeringa; journalist and founding manager at Science Media Centre, Peter Griffin; head of mobile and portals at Orion Health, Richard Fraser; vice president of market development at Alcatel-Lucent/ng Connect lead, Jason Collins; and Chorus network strategy manager, Kurt Rodgers.

Entries for the Gig-Start Fund initiative are open until 12pm, 30 January, 2015, with finalists announced on 2 March, 2015. Finalists for the Gig-Start Fund will then be invited to attend a “Pitch Day” where they will have the chance to showcase and pitch their ideas to the judging panel and the wider Gigatown community.

The winning applications will be announced in March 2015.

For more details about the fund, go to