The Hunter is set to benefit from plans for five new Business Fibre Zones, which will bring local Internet speeds up to date with the best in the country.

The plan allows businesses to tap into high capacity broadband at affordable prices, similar to those offered in major metropolitan centres.

Almost 50,000 businesses will have the chance to see a speed boost in areas such as Maitland, Williamtown, and the CBD.

Hunter Business Chamber CEO Bob Hawes says the upgrades would help Newcastle stay on top of its connectivity issues amidst record migration from Sydney to regional areas.

“They’ve identified areas in the region where there’s a high concentration of business and industry that are using Internet and relying on broadband,” Mr Hawes said.

“The arrangements that will apply within these zones we understand will allow businesses to apply and secure connections starting at 100mB upload and download speeds through to almost 1gB, at prices that are going to be comparable with those offered in the Sydney area.” 

Minister for Regional Communications, Regional Health and Local Government, Mark Coulton, says the changes set out by the National Broadband Network Company garnered a lot of interest in a Hunter Business Chamber meeting on Thursday morning.

“We’re on the verge of one of the biggest migrations out of capital cities that we’ve ever seen, probably for a long, long time, if not ever,” Mr Coulton said.

“The benefits of living in a regional city like Newcastle are where you’ve got lifestyle benefits, cheaper housing than probably the middle of Sydney, but still being able to operate at the top of your capacity as a business, has certainly got a lot of people thinking about making that move.”Mr Hawes says the project is an exciting opportunity for regional development.

“Businesses have been forced to make decisions to locate where there’s a richness of broadband and Internet services, and that at times has put regional and rural areas at a disadvantage,” Mr Hawes said.

“If this plan comes to pass, and rolls out the way they’re intending it to, that will take away or evaporate a lot of that disadvantage that we’ve experienced over the years.”