Remote areas need broadband link to secure jobs
High-speed broadband must be provided to some of the State's most remote areas within two years - or companies will not consider setting up operations and creating jobs.
Údarás na Gaeltachta, who are charged with promoting the economic development of Gaeltacht areas, said it is exploring ways to incentivise private companies to roll out broadband, as it was a "key priority" for competitiveness.
Director of Enterprise and Employment, Michéal O hEanaigh, said a broadband connection was "absolutely vital" for companies.
"Over the years, the key issues for companies were things like road access, electricity and water, but today the key issue is access to good, affordable and reliable high-speed broadband.
"Working with the relevant bodies and assisting this is a key priority. We're looking to see if there are ways to fast-track access to the infrastructure in the various locations to ensure that companies can get much-needed access for the present, but also to ensure they can future-proof as well."
Some 7,500 people are employed in Údarás-supported companies - around 20pc of the labour force in Gaeltacht areas. While it was difficult to say if business had been lost to areas including Donegal, Galway, Cork, Mayo, Waterford and parts of Meath without broadband, "you're not going to get business" without it, Mr O hEanaigh added.
Financial incentives were being considered to deliver a service, and discussions with the Department of Communications are ongoing.
"It's vital we get access. It levels the playing pitch for us and the areas we're serving," he added. "The fact that businesses with access to broadband can set up to serve markets anywhere in the world is a huge advantage."
The IDA added that connecting rural areas would help make the case for regional locations, especially in relation to home-working opportunities in international firms.