Labour has called for an inquiry over the number of customers who have signed up to a wireless broadband service subsidised through the $435 million Rural Broadband Initiative.
The service in question, Vodafone Rural Broadband, is intended to provide homes and businesses with an alternative way to access the internet in those rural areas where traditional fixed-line broadband is non-existent or slow.
Labour communications spokeswoman Clare Curran said only about 8000 of the 252,000 homes and businesses that were within reach of the wireless service had signed up. She has written to Commerce Select Committee chairwoman Melissa Lee calling for an inquiry.
The Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) is funded by a levy on phone companies and is also subsidising the roll-out of faster fixed-line broadband and improved cellphone coverage to rural communities.
"We are seeing significant growth in the uptake each month, with customers telling us about the huge difference access to high-speed broadband makes to their everyday lives," he said.
"But we would like to know how we can work with the Government and other parties to increase the uptake on that network, given money has been spent on it," he adds.
Baird said Vodafone Rural Broadband would improve with a move to the latest 4G wireless technology.
The company’s involvement in the RBI had seen it build 115 new towers and upgrade another 300, which had also delivered significant improvements in mobile coverage, he said.