Friday 30 September 2016

Broadband is 'last chance saloon' for rural jobs

Declan O'Brien

Published 12/07/2016 | 02:30

Irish Rural Link CEO, Seamus Boland
Irish Rural Link CEO, Seamus Boland

Further delays in the delivery of the State-funded broadband service planned for 2020 could cost jobs, farming and rural bodies have warned.

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The €1bn National Broadband Plan, which will provide broadband to 900,000 homes, businesses and schools around the country, was described by Communications Minister Denis Naughten as a decision matching the scale and significance of rural electrification in the 1950s and '60s.

Macra na Feirme, ICMSA, IFA and Irish Rural Link (IRL) agreed that the plan was a positive development. However, concerns were voiced over continuing delays in commissioning the strategy and private sector involvement.

Seamus Boland of IRL said careful oversight of the programme would be required in light of Minister Naughten's decision to give private enterprise the lead role in implementing the broadband strategy.

"The Government will need to ensure that the worst excesses of using private monopolies will not damage the ongoing roll out of the plan," Mr Boland said.

Mr Boland said provision of high speed broadband was the last chance saloon for many rural areas and he urged the minister to push for a completion date of 2018.

The 2020 deadline was also criticised by Patrick Rohan of ICMSA. He said the broadband programme has been characterised by "unwarranted delays" and a failure to "nail down" specific timetables.

IFA president Joe Healy said broadband pricing structures for rural customers had to be affordable and it was vital for rural families and businesses.

Macra president Seán Finan said private sector companies involvement would ensure "cheaper and faster" delivery.

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