Rural dwellers 'may have to move to cities' for proper broadband
A growing proportion of Ireland's rural population say there is pressure on them to abandon their homes and move to cities because of poor regional broadband infrastructure.
One in four rural dwellers now says they "would be forced" to move to a city or large town without proper broadband, according to a major new survey.
The Vodafone survey, conducted by Amarach Research among 1,000 people outside Ireland's biggest cities, says that at least one in five Irish homes has no broadband access at all.
Of those that do, almost half of households outside towns report insufficient speeds to perform ordinary tasks. And one in five now says they have to leave home to access the internet.
The figures will come as a stark warning to Government planners preparing a timeframe for the State-subsidised National Broadband Plan.
The plan, which promises to connect every rural home to fibre-speed broadband, is currently not scheduled for completion until 2022. And it is not planned to even begin a roll-out until the second half of 2017.
However, the Vodafone survey could cause Government strategists to rethink the State's timetable, with parts of rural Ireland now facing an increasingly bleak future because of the lack of broadband.
"The results suggest that both businesses and potential employees won't consider places with poor broadband infrastructure," said Gerard O'Neill, chairman of Amarach Research.
"It also suggests that having proper broadband improves the chance of attracting returning emigrants, many with skills."
Senior telecoms industry figures now say that the National Broadband Plan could be delivered much quicker than 2022, even with the Government's delayed 2017 commencement date. And local chambers of commerce have been pleading with State planners to speed up delivery of the services, arguing that local businesses are being starved of vital resources.
Of rural homes that have some form of broadband, almost one in four uses the internet at home for work. And nearly 150,000 of those say that they avoid commuting some or all of the time because they can connect to work through the internet. But one-third say slow and unreliable internet speeds prevent them from working from home.