20,000 homes still lack broadband despite scheme
SOME 20,000 households are still without broadband internet access, despite the successful completion of the national broadband scheme (NBS).
Following the scheme, 99pc of the population now has access to mobile broadband. The remaining one percent, which equates to around 20,000 homes, are said to be in the most inaccessible or isolated areas in the country.
The government believe those homes can be brought online through a "rural broadband" scheme which will be launched "within weeks" once approved by the EU.
The scheme, which was carried out by the mobile network operator Three, was completed on time and on budget, having been concluded in October at a cost of €223m, €79m of which was contributed by the state.
According to the government, this is the first stage in the national broadband service which will see download speeds increased significantly from the current minimum of 1.2 megabytes.
As fibre-optic cables are rolled out across the country, it is hoped that speeds could eventually be increased to 100mbps.
Any fixed residential or business customer located within the NBS coverage can apply for broadband services under the scheme. There are around 235,000 buildings covered by the NBS.
While most of the area under the scheme is covered by a conventional mobile network, some of the hard-to-access areas, such as mountainous regions, are covered by a satellite service.
It is estimated that the scheme could bring nearly €400m into the economy through the creation of small businesses that could not exist without broadband, according to Friends First economist Jim Power.
Communications minister Eamon Ryan said the scheme could be held up as an example of efficient planning and execution by the Government.
"This is an area where we can create new employment and economic growth," he said.
"Last year the ICT sector grew by 6pc and we can double that growth and create more jobs through this scheme.
"Our objective now has to be rolling out a fibre (cable) network across the country, because data speeds are increasing greatly. The state has to work with all the relevant companies who may be able to help, be it the National Roads Authority, Bord Gais, or Irish Rail.
"Putting the fibre cable line along the gas line to Mayo, as was done last month, or running a fibre cable along the canals into and out of Dublin, are just some examples of the co-operation among the various state agencies that we need."