Northern Areas Forum mobilises for fibre lines

The technology divide between developed and underdeveloped areas in Port Elizabeth as highlighted by the lockdown period has spurred a few residents in the northern areas into action.

To bridge the gap, the group has started a forum to bring fibre-optic lines to the area.

The Northern Areas Forum (NAF) was established in July with the common purpose of the advancement of the community, reducing unemployment, creating trade for students in the ICT sector and providing coding by offering workshops for students who do not have any computer skills.

Chair Anees Bloew said various factors had moved NAF to start a drive to bring fibre to the people, among them the state of readiness of northern areas students when entering tertiary education and having to access the internet or send an e-mail.

“Working from home became the new normal, with employees having to pay for their own data costs,” he said. 

He said online and homeschooling via Zoom and MS Teams, where good internet usage needed to be provided for students during Covid-19, was another reason constructive action was needed. 

Bloew said the forum had done its research about the number of households that would benefit from fibre in the area.

“The Northern Areas Forum has developed an app that allows residents, households, business and organisations to fill in the application with the demand they would like to have in terms of fibre (broadband services), suburb, line speed, budget per household, current data usage, current service provider and cost.

“This is a live application which [shows] us the demand and gives us constant reports daily when residents fill it in.”

The forum’s financial contribution to make the project successful was confidential, Bloew said.

However, fibre suppliers carried the infrastructure costs when doing a roll-out in the areas.

He said after the roll-out, the average cost they envisaged per household would range from R370 a month.

“However, if this is unattainable, we will look at a costing model and see how it can be made affordable.

“Now, households are having to fork out on average R1,600 for equipment and a monthly premium from R600 to have an internet connection in their homes, which is also not the best quality.”

The roll-out started in Malabar, where the initial demand for fibre was identified.

Phase 1 is in process for Bethelsdorp.

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