Farm Ireland

Thursday 19 July 2018

Time to get smart about broadband

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

It is good to hear that the long-awaited National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is now well under way and should be completed by October.

The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, and their private sector partners, mobile provider 3, claim that close to 50pc of the country is now covered by the scheme.

This may be the case but the assertion that the NBS will provide a top-class broadband connection to rural users once it is completed may be wide of the mark.

Farmers and small business owners who are operating in rural locations point out that coverage from wireless broadband can be severely disrupted if there are buildings or even trees blocking the signal between the transmitter and receiver.

The speed of the connection is also dependent on the number of people using broadband locally at any given time. Similarly, the bandwidth delivered by wireless providers is often too variable for business needs.

As a consequence, a growing number of rural businesses have opted for satellite connections, despite the greater cost involved.

The €220m investment in the NBS initiative is a positive development and will provide internet coverage for thousands of rural homes. However, it will not meet the needs of small businesses outside the country's main population centres.

The most recent OECD international survey ranked Ireland in 20th place in terms of broadband penetration.

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Official sources dispute this rating and claims that we actually rank seventh.

However, this assessment includes mobile phone coverage, which is hardly the same as broadband access.

For a country which places the development of the 'smart economy' at the heart of its recovery plans, our performance in terms of broadband delivery hasn't been all that smart.

More needs to be done on broadband provision.

Irish Independent

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