Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 25 May 2017

Green light for high fibre rural broadband

Cmmunications Minister Denis Naughten. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Cmmunications Minister Denis Naughten. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

Full geographical maps of the Government's rural-broadband plan will be revealed in the coming weeks, Communications Minister, Denis Naughten, told the Farming Independent.

Minister Naughten said the full geographical area of the country will be divided into "blue and amber areas".

Speaking in his office at Leinster House, he stressed that "no premises will be left behind under the National Broadband Plan (NBP) by the state or commercial operators".

The NBP, originally set out to provide broadband connection of at least 30Mbs to 927,000 homes and businesses in rural areas by 2020, however, signalled delays suggest the roll-out won't be complete until 2023.

Although the Communications Minister was unable to offer exact details on the plan, he stressed that there will be "considerable impact" on fibre broadband to all home, wireless and mobile sectors.

"We are going to bring high speed broadband to every single premises in rural areas, in the vast, vast, majority of cases that is going to be fibre to the home, which is potentially going to give people in Ireland up to one gigabit per second, which is 1,000 megabits," Minister Naughten said.

"This opens up huge opportunities for farmers to earn extra income and for young people to remain within the farming community," he added.

It is understood the looming announcement will not include the awarding of the NBP contract to Eir, Enet and Siro - the three consortiums currently bidding for the deal.

"We're going to have a series of significant announcements over the next six to eight weeks. People will see exactly what our trajectory is and what our time-lines are in practical terms with clear commitments, contracts signed and so forth," said the Roscommon Galway TD.

After 20 years of hounding various governments on their failure to improve broadband access in rural areas, Minister Naughten is confident his department will finally deliver.

He said the most important tool for farmers over the next 10-15 years will be their phone.

"We are rolling out 5G mobile services across Ireland on a geographic rather than on a population basis. I've already written the cheque for the first phase, €5.6m."

This means farmers will be able to use their hand held 5G mobile devices anywhere on the farms. "It means farmers can live input data and get live input back no matter where they are on the farm, in the yard or up the fields," he explained.

"We're going to see an 86pc increase in the wireless network within this calendar year; that is going to increase again by another 100pc by the end of 2020 to meet growing needs."

In relation to smart farming, Minister Naughten said his department are working closely with the IFA and the Environmental Protection Agency on ways to reduce input costs for farmers, particularly through focus on the Beef Data and Genomics Programme.

"The work we're doing with farmers has saved them on average €5,000 per annum through reduced energy bills, fertilisers' bills, better management of manures and grass.

"As a direct result it has also reduced emissions and that very much ties into the ethos and approach of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme," he said.

Indo Farming