Back to blogs.

DECA Affordable Connectivity Constellation white paper


This DECA Affordable Connectivity white paper is downloadable in pdf format HERE.

You will find all the sources in the pdf. The table format does not translate to this webpage format. Please refer to the pdf version of the white paper for these.

We have cut and pasted the main content and appendixes of this paper into this blog post for accessibility reasons as pdf's are tricky for screen readers to access:

Affordable Connectivity for all in Aotearoa

This submission has been prepared by the DECA Affordable Connectivity Constellation, a group of people who are passionate about digital equity as an outcome for Aotearoa, with representatives from community groups, industry, government, health and education.


We have heard loud and clear from our communities across Aotearoa who find themselves digitally excluded that the COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted the digital divide that still exists. Our people who are without internet connectivity and support have been left feeling ashamed, stressed, struggling…simply forgotten.

The Digital Strategy for Aotearoa (DSA), recently announced by the Government, was an encouraging vision for the future and the measures of success align to a digital equity goal;

● High speed internet is available to all New Zealanders.

● All New Zealanders can afford a quality internet connection and internet enabled


● All New Zealanders have the tools, skills and confidence to do all they want online.

However, not enough is being done today to address affordable connectivity issues. If the Government believes, like is written in the DSA roadmap, that “digital inclusion is now considered essential for participation in modern society” then accelerating the development of a cross-agency digital inclusion action plan, that is co-designed with industry, Iwi Māori and other community groups is needed. This should be prioritised urgently so that we can start the journey to make sure no New Zealander is left behind in the digital era. In the meantime we strongly recommend that the Ministry of Education Equitable Digital Access programme continues to be funded as a stop gap.

This paper explores whether internet is affordable for all households across Aotearoa, starts to identify the gap that exists and shares ideas on ways we could address the affordability barrier. We acknowledge there are some generalisations in this paper - every household and home are unique and when working on the plan this needs to be considered.

Internet connectivity - an essential utility

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how critical having access to quality connectivity is to everyone's daily lives. It’s required to work, study, and stay connected. The impact of those excluded can include challenges paying the bills, getting paid, and lack of access to Government services.

The impact of climate change and our transition to be a net zero nation also means that access to connectivity is ever more critical from both an environmental and economic perspective. We want every community across Aotearoa to have opportunity and prosper, digital connectivity is key.

It has become clear that connectivity is no longer a ‘nice to have’ it is an essential component of being able to fully participate in a digital world. It is past time that connectivity is now treated by the decision makers as an essential utility, like electricity or water. This is starting to happen in government policy work on emergency management and infrastructure, where telecommunications is being referred to as “critical” and “essential” infrastructure.

Not having affordable digital access is widening inequality in Aotearoa. At the same time, initiatives aimed at simply providing access have struggled. To achieve digital equity, other barriers (trust, motivation and skills) need to be considered and addressed in parallel. In many cases people and whanau need time and ongoing support as they navigate the digital world.

Access options

New Zealand is fortunate in that over the last ten years, significant investment has been made by both the public and private sector to improve the quality of connectivity infrastructure.

These include the investment in and the build of the fibre to the premise network, UFB which will once fully complete reach 87% of premises in Aotearoa. The mobile operators have completed their 4G roll outs and moved onto 5G particularly in the urban areas.

They have also collaborated in a joint venture, The Rural Connectivity Group, which contracted with the NZ Government to roll out 500 mobile towers using cutting edge

infrastructure sharing technology allowing for the tower to have one set of equipment installed which can supply services to customers of all three mobile networks. The

Government has also worked with a significant number of regional wireless ISPs (WISPs) to provide further options in rural New Zealand.

However even with this increased investment and improved coverage of alternative access methods there still exists barriers to entry for any access. One of these is simply down to geography with parts of rural NZ1 still suffering from low quality to no access to digital connectivity. This in itself is a divide that will require continued investment if the rural parts of NZ are ever to receive similar quality services such as urban NZ.

In discussions one of the biggest barriers to access though is affordability. To ensure all in Aotearoa can access the digital services they need to live, learn and work, they must be able to afford the connectivity they need to access these opportunities.

There have been a number of positive initiatives in this space including such programmes as the Skinny Jump available through the Spark Foundation, and some of the offerings from the fibre companies at the lower end of the market. But there are limitations in the current offerings. In particular the Skinny Jump offering can be limited in its availability due to it being a wireless product provided through the mobile network. This can run up against issues of limited capacity on the local cell infrastructure and the general limits of a service provided over a mobile network. Current supply chain issues are also seeing waitlists for people wanting to take up the service. Based on our korero with those impacted, none of the current services meet the real needs of those at the lower level of income that are currently missing out and therefore will keep us from being the inclusive digital society we all desire Aotearoa to be.

What should affordable connectivity include?

When considering what an affordable connectivity package should include, the necessity of connections for all individuals that make up a household should be considered. Having a mobile connection is vital when out and about whereas having a broadband connection in the home, that works for whatever the makeup of the household is important for ensuring all can live, learn and work. It’s not a mobile or home connection – both are required.

Alongside mobile and home broadband connectivity, it’s essential there are the right devices available. When looking at affordable connectivity, it should be a package of all three that is taken into account when considering the support people need. Average data usage in the home is increasing rapidly as more everyday activities move

online so when looking at connectivity for all, data caps are not helpful and should be disregarded. The requirement for unlimited data is to ensure reliable access to the full breadth of the internet potential with no fear at the margin of running out of data. Data scarcity diminishes the meaningfulness of a user’s connection.

Is internet connectivity affordable for all?

The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) uses a guideline of affordability being no more than 2% of household income (HHI). Using this 2% HHI guideline to calculate affordability of in-home and out of home (mobile) internet connectivity provides for a range of household profiles:

Figure 1: Connectivity affordability for a range of household profiles (See pdf for table)

Household profile* 18-year-old Job Seeker living alone (with area 4 accommodation supplement)

GrossHHI* $19,746

Maximum weekly cost $7.60

Maximum monthly cost $32.90

Connectivity package required Mobile plan + device, Home plan + device

Household profile* Superannuant living alone

GrossHHI* $27,988

Maximum weekly cost $10.76

Maximum monthly cost $46.65

Connectivity package required Mobile plan + device, Home plan + device

Household profile* Sole Job Seeker parent with 2 teenagers living in a small town (with area 4 accommodation supplement)

GrossHHI* $32,846

Maximum weekly cost $12.60

Maximum monthly cost $54.70

Connectivity package required Mobile plan + device x3, Home plan + device x3

Household profile* Superannuants living together

GrossHHI* $42,500

Maximum weekly cost $16.35

Maximum monthly cost $70.83

Connectivity package required Mobile plan + devices x2, Home plan + device

Household profile* Living wage earner living alone (37.5hrs @ $23.65 ph)

GrossHHI* $46,118

Maximum weekly cost $17.74

Maximum monthly cost $76.87

Connectivity package required Mobile plan + device, Home plan + device

Household profile* Two living wage earners with 3 children aged 12-17years

GrossHHI* $92,236

Maximum weekly cost $35.48

Maximum monthly cost $153.73

Connectivity package required Mobile plan + device x2, Home plan + devices x4

*Based on 1 April 2022 rates2

The 2% is just a benchmark. Our engagement with the digital equity community suggests that for many low income New Zealanders a much lower amount will be affordable, in the $5-$10 per month range. Especially for large whānau and those with high costs.

Basic mobile and broadband plans in the market

Basic prepaid mobile plans (excluding bonuses, special offers) range from $16-20 for up to 1.5GB with rollover data every 28 days. The average amount of mobile data used by a consumer (for a month) increased from 3.29 GB in 2020 to 4.21 GB in 2021. Basic home broadband plans (excluding bonuses, special offers) range from $55-70 for a basic package (up to 50/10 Mbps and up to unlimited). The average amount of broadband data used by one household (for a month) increased from 284 GB in 2020 to 330 GB in 2021. 79 percent of households are now on unlimited data plans.

Based on the assessment above, connectivity is unaffordable for four out of the six household profiles above (highlighted in figure 1). With the two that could potentially afford the connectivity, this becomes less of a certainty when considering the cost of devices.

The size of the gap

To understand the number of households that could be unable to afford the right connectivity for their needs is hard to quantify and should be explored as part of the cross agency and others working group. Based on the MSD benefit fact sheets4 and information available from Stats NZ this could be around 150,000 households (8% of all households).

What could be done about it?

As a starting point a working group, with representatives from government agencies, industry and community groups should be brought together to workshop solutions as a collective to consider the following options:

1. Creating an MSD allocated payment for digital citizenship that includes enough subsidy for;

a. a mobile and broadband connection

b. the devices needed within a household

c. community organisations who can provide skills and wrap around support.

Under this option income is effectively increased and folks spend it on retail products and services.

2. A government funding contribution towards an equity internet product or products that is affordable for low income New Zealanders and considers the device and wrap around support and skills as part of the package. Under this option we would lower the cost and provide more accessible services for low income New Zealanders. This option may require us to look at the current regulations so that providers can offer such services without the concern of running afoul of those relating to non-discrimination.

Both options for affordable connectivity will require complementary government investment in device access, digital skills and wrap around support. It is recommended this is done by funding community based wrap around support providers who know the needs of their communities and provide holistic support. One example of this

could be scaling the Equity Digital Operation Service (EDOS) beyond households with school-children, with community groups being the relationship managers for those that need support. It will be necessary to fund a network of community organisations working across the motu. The earlier DECA letter talks about this network model.


1. Co-design and prioritise. By bringing together a working group of government, delivery agencies, community groups and telecom industry a co-designed solution

would be successfully developed. Let’s stop talking in silos and come together with urgency.

2. Community groups key to building trust: Community groups are the key to the success of digital equity initiatives going forward, and that subsidised access /

connections could be provided alongside device support / digital skills / ongoing wrap around support programmes that already exist today.

3. Collective transformation: There are multiple groups that are passionate about seeing digital equity become a reality for Aotearoa. Let’s leverage that passion to

bring collective and transformational change.

Contact us

If you’d like to discuss this whitepaper, or want to know more about DECA, please email


Overview of the barriers and impact of digital exclusion

68 people joined us for the DECA affordable connectivity hui on Monday 15 November 2021. The purpose of the hui was to listen to the barriers to affordable connectivity in Aotearoa and hear the impacts these barriers have on people in our communities; capture what affordable and dignified connectivity is; and look at how an ongoing constellation could support and who wanted to be part of it.

Throughout the last six months (Nov 2021 – April 2022) we have met to further discuss what eligibility and base service could look like. Our constellation is made up of people from local council, education, health, the telco sector, government and community groups.

Figure 2: The barriers to affordable internet connectivity (please see pdf for table)



● Unaffordable for low-income families.

● Higher priority essential needs (food, clothing, healthcare).

● Fragmentation of solutions, hard to navigate support.

● Lack of government support for meaningful solution.

● Multiple initiatives across NZ but no long term sustainable funding model.

Not seen as essential

● Internet is seen as a luxury rather than a basic human right.

● Profit before people - internet is a basic right in the 21st Century.

● The tradeoffs people have to make for access to 'free' services, eg giving up information, consent.

Data and plans

● Current equity solutions have inability to hold a lot of connections at one time.

● Lack of sufficient data for needs (large whanau, data hungry applications like video for GP/learning online).

● Concern of being locked into a ‘plan’.

● Confusion over plans and what they provide.

● Plans that can adapt to students/children who move between multiple households.

● Can be an issue getting an account of have no/poor credit history.

Poor / no connectivity

● Rural communities do not have the same access

to high speed, reliable broadband.

● Poor range of coverage for affordable options.

● Lack of consistent infrastructure in homes.

● Lack of infrastructure in remote geographic areas.

● Connectivity required at various places - home, school, and while out and about in the community.


● Services targeted to individuals, not whanau or community.

● Lack of suitable device for whanau.

● Disability barriers - sight, sound, touch, neurodivergence etc.

● Language barriers.

● Landlord permission if an install such as fibre is required – hard to get.


Whakamaa (embarrassment)

● Don’t want to ask for support / handouts.

● Don’t know how to use it.

● Differing needs related to generational migration and connection to the Pacific.


● Lack of trust and fear of uncertainty when using a connection.

● Fear of being watched.

● Misinformation.

● Procurement issues and traditional philanthropy daunting and exclude highly effective small community initiatives.


● Scared of being scammed or identity being stolen.

● Parents concerned with children using.

● Concerns of internet being used in whare for inappropriate purposes.

No support

● Unaware of what programmes exist to help with making internet more affordable.

● Those making decisions don't understand the situation on the frontlines of inequity.

● Poor user/customer experience for support services.

● Lack of people supporting connectivity on the ground.



● Lack of education and trust about how to use the internet.

● Understanding how to make the most of digital world.

● Ways to make it easy for all.


● Not aware of the benefit to getting online in general (what's the value for the money).

● Not aware of the support that is available.



● Little to no digital literacy skills in our Maori communities (especially senior/kaumatua demographic).

● Software updates / design changes can be confusing / hard to understand.


● Don't want to appear to be silly.

● Overwhelmed - all feels too much effort.

● Shame - don’t want ppl to know they don’t know how to use it.

● Increasing technological solutions - particularly in health - rapid rate of change that further alienate those least likely to participate - increasing divide.

● My community is relationship based – want to turn to the people I know for help.

Figure 3: The impact these barriers have on people and communities

How people are feeling

It’s not working

“The doors are shut if you don't meet criteria. There is no person to talk to, to support and walk alongside”

Stressed, pressure and shame

“Don’t make me choose between food and education”

Forgotten and excluded

“Elderly people often tell us they feel like they are being stripped of their dignity and their independence is being taken away.”


“I have to drive a fair direction (20-30 mins out) to check cell phone signal”


“I can't carry out transactions online which are important like pay online, access essential info and services”

Unable to learn

“I had a device, but I gave it to my mum.”


“Pacific communities in Tāmaki Makaurau are accessing faith/church services online but are having to cut back and not attend the full service.”


“I can't communicate with whanau”

“I have a connection provided but don't know how to use it.”

How to overcome these barriers

● Listen to those impacted: understand the barriers, how it’s impacting people and whanau; acknowledge that understanding people’s motivation for being digitally included will be different; respect choices – not everyone wants to do everything digitally.

● Make it easy for those who want to help: need access to data to be able identify the vulnerable people to aim assistance to them in the first instance.

● Easy and transparent plans that work for all: No sign up fees, no contracts, no break fees. Minimise small print, telco commissioner advice on how to compare plans.

● Well-funded / subsidised centrally from government but the community lead the doing: Cost has to less than $10 per month for low income whanau.

● Create community digital hubs: Increase public access and have resourced navigators and supporting local champions - after community engagement and relationship building.

● Loan devices: can’t look at access alone, need to make sure devices for the needs of the whanau in conjunction.

● Clear eligibility criteria: make it easy for people to get connected.

● Co-designed community, private sector and government solutions: Acknowledging same solution will not suit all in need.

● Internet availability to all of NZ: Zero rated data for learning, e-health, online banking and government services.

● Set the bar for Aotearoa to have a long term, sustainable approach: We’ve spent enough on initiatives that haven’t worked. Look holistically at all barriers when deciding a solution.

● Clear frameworks / guidelines: Make it easy for the help to reach people, not wrap it in red tape.

● Community Digital Equity Advisory Council in place: To monitor progress and continue to listen to those in need.

Overview of DECA and the Affordable Connectivity Constellation

The catalyst for DECA came out of Aotearoa’s 2020 COVID lockdown when the scale of digital exclusion was starkly revealed, and the necessity of digital inclusion was beyond doubt. Officially launched in October 2021, DECA shines a light on digital inclusion initiatives, identifies gaps, advocates and offers space for innovation and cross-sector collaboration.

The Affordable Connectivity Constellation emerged at the end of 2021, with the aim of listening to the community and those impacted by being digitally excluded. Initially we ran three hui’, with representatives from community groups, industry, government, health and education. Since March 2022 we have been meeting on a regular basis to prepare this paper.

DECAs purpose is to be a voice for those that are digitally excluded and strive for solutions that are sustainable for all.

This DECA Affordable Connectivity white paper is downloadable in pdf format HERE.