Chorus committed to Gigatown, gets handle on spam – UPDATED

Chorus says its Gigatown competition, which offers one region gigabit per second internet connectivity, is not under review despite a funding shortfall for the ultrafast broadband rollout.

In a letter to shareholders amid a sharp drop in its share price, chairperson Sue Sheldon said Chorus would “likely cut all discretionary activity, including growth-related capital investment, re-price most of its commercial services, and generally manage for cash until the [Commerce] Commission’s final price review outcomes are resolved”.

The government doesn’t have adequate parliamentary support to legislate against the Commerce Commission’s proposed cut in what Chorus could charge for copper-based broadband next year. 

Chorus spokesperson Ian Bonnar says the company is committed to Gigatown, saying the contest is “intimately and intricately involved” with all aspects of UFB. As long as Chorus is doing the UFB rollout, it will continue to run Gigatown, says Bonnar.

He adds it’s too early to give details of any services, marketing activity or initiatives Chorus might review.

In the letter, Sheldon said discussions were underway between Chorus and Crown Fibre Holdings, its partner in the rollout, to address the funding gap, alongside changes to Chorus’ business model.

Chorus says it’s attracted more than 80,000 unique visitors to the website for its Gigatown competition, which offers one region gigabit per second internet connectivity.

It’s also had a boost of more than 15,000 individuals on the campaign’s email supporter network since the year-long promotion launched on Labour Day.

Thirty towns have grown their region’s email supporter base during the competition and there are 39 Facebook pages and blogs set up for Gigatown campaigns, Chorus says. Since Gigatown launched, 400,000 pieces of eligible hashtagged content has been generated, according to the communications infrastructure provider.

Spokesperson Elissa Downey says eligible content can’t break the competition’s spam rules and must include the pre-defined contest hashtag for the town, along with content about ultrafast broadband or why a particular town should win the contest.

Examples of spam, for which Chorus regularly sweeps social platforms, include hashtag duplication, splitting a sentence or posting a run of posts in quick succession, using hashtags in sequence, posting with nothing but hashtags and irrelevant updates, according to the website.

Chorus says on the site it will exclude content from repeat offenders.

The company says there has been a “dramatic reduction” in spam since it clarified and actively shared its rules, says Downey.

“The majority of content we have now is considered eligible. The local social media managers running campaigns in their towns have also played a big role in supporting their own communities to ‘tag to score’. 

“If any points have been removed it is because people have spammed. It is not isolated to one town and as I mentioned above, has calmed down considerably as people learn the ropes of how to tag to score points.”

Chorus says it collaborates with people running regional Gigatown campaigns, supporting them with information about Chorus-led promotions that run “over the top of” Gigatown.

“When we announced Gigatown back in September we went through a socialisation process to encourage interest from the likes of entrepreneurs, councils and regional business associations,” says Downey. “We were also approached by a range of different people from all walks of life, and our goal was to get them talking to each other to form leadership groups.

“We find this collaboration approach has worked well for many towns. We work with representatives of each leadership group to manage feedback and have found this collaborative approach has been key to the success of the campaign to date.”

Several promotions and competitions are planned to keep Kiwis interested as the competition continues. Chorus says these will likely focus on themes such as education, startups, health and areas of the economy and society that would be positively impacted by ultrafast broadband and gigabit fibre.

The most recent competition was Supporters World, with the winning town given 25,000 gigapoints for adding the most supporters to its network.

Dunedin took first place, followed by Timaru, which earned 15,000 points and Masterton taking 10,000. Timaru, Blenheim and Queenstown scored 10,000 extra points for doubling their supporter bases.

Wanaka is leading Gigatown with more than half a million points.

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