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Delays to rural broadband plan 'too early to predict'

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Boost: Economist Jim Power said 9,000 jobs may stem from high-speed hubs

Boost: Economist Jim Power said 9,000 jobs may stem from high-speed hubs

Boost: Economist Jim Power said 9,000 jobs may stem from high-speed hubs

National Broadband Ireland, the company running the National Broadband Plan, does not yet foresee substantial delays in the rollout of rural broadband under the scheme, senior executives say. The lockdown of movement and some forms of transportation has raised fears that advanced planning and 'on-the-ground' activity related to the 500,000-premise rollout may be curtailed.

However, company executives note that it is too early to say if current plans will be shifted.

NBI signed a 25-year contract with the Government in December after winning a contentious tender process.

Under the contract, there are penalties for missing agreed rollout deadlines. This year was to see the completion of 300 community broadband points, with rural premises being connected from the beginning of next year.

The community points will be located in 300 rural towns and villages, which will see a fibre broadband connection established.

The contract timetable also promises the service to 250,000 rural residents by the end of 2021, with the remaining homes to be connected over a five-year period.

The new broadband network will be a wholesale service that current commercial broadband firms can resell to rural residents.

Using fibre technology, the broadband will initially deliver speeds of up to 1,000Mbs, far in excess of existing copper landline speeds.

Research from economist Jim Power on behalf of Vodafone suggested that €300m and 9,000 jobs would be created from just a handful of high-speed broadband hubs in regional towns.

Mr Power's report also predicted 1,000 new businesses in just six of the hubs.

A recent European Commission study claimed that Irish small firms outperformed other EU small businesses for trading, exporting and digital business when they had access to modern broadband.

The Digital Economy and Society Index report also found that much of Ireland's rural economy was being held back by sparse broadband availability.

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