Every home in the country will get high-speed service - Naughten
Every home in the country will have access to high-speed broadband, Communications Minister Denis Naughten has insisted.
The Department of Communications expects to make an announcement "in the next couple of weeks" about the identity of the company that has secured the contract to roll out high-speed internet access across the country, he said.
Speaking at the launch of a report on the state of our infrastructure by Engineers Ireland, Mr Naughten said that broadband was the "biggest single issue" he had been dealing with since taking office.
The report, 'State of Ireland 2016', says that although €2bn has been invested in broadband in the past four years, speeds were dropping and we now ranked 12th in Europe compared with 7th in 2014.
"We've sought the initial expressions of interest and five consortia have come in, involving 30 companies," he said.
"The department is going through those at the moment and we expect in the next couple of weeks to be making an announcement in relation to that. We also expect to bring a memo to Government.
"My department is very focused on getting these contracts signed and future-proofed for the next 25 years. I see broadband as the rural electrification of this generation. Every single home should have access to high-speed broadband and I am determined to deliver."
The report calls on the Government to fast-track the rollout of broadband across the State, saying the National Broadband Plan is a "cornerstone" in ensuring rural Ireland has access to a high-speed internet connection.
It awards our telecommunications infrastructure a 'B' grade, meaning it is of an "acceptable standard", but warns that more investment is needed.
"Since 2010, worldwide internet data demand has grown by over 40pc year on year," it says. "The telecommunications infrastructure is challenged with ever-increasing demands on the networks by consumers who demand that both business and lifestyle requirements are met."
Engineers Ireland, which represents 23,000 professional engineers, said a mid-term review of the €27bn long-term capital plan also needed to be brought forward to address serious deficits in key pieces of infrastructure.
In an assessment of the macro-economic impact of the internet on the Irish economy, commissioned by Naughten's department, it found the digital economy to be worth €12.3bn with Irish consumers spending €850,000 per hour online.
This represents an increase of 20pc compared to 2012. The digital economy is expected to expand to about €21.4bn by 2020.