Independents push rural 4G rollout as part of deal
Independent TDs are set to demand a new expansion to mobile operators' 4G mobile broadband coverage in rural areas.
The extra mobile coverage is to compensate for delays to the National Broadband Plan, which will not now complete its rollout to 760,000 rural homes and businesses until 2022.
Denis Naughten, an Independent TD for Roscommon-Galway, said the measure was being tabled in discussions by the Independent TDs to support the formation of a minority Fine Gael government.
Mr Naughten said that mobile 4G, which can offer broadband speeds of up to 40Mbs, is to be a "short-term" solution until the state gets its fibre broadband programme on course.
"We need to fast-track 4G broadband in the short term," he said. "We are putting a proposal to government. Hopefully we can get some momentum on foot of that."
Any state-ordered rollout of 4G across rural areas would require fast-tracked planning permissions for extra masts and could require a change to existing mobile licences.
"There is existing capacity with the ESB and Bord Gáis lines," said Mattie McGrath, an independent TD for Tipperary who is also involved in government formation talks.
"The NRA also has ducts that could be used."
But the TDs say that they cannot speed up a delay to the rollout of the state's National Broadband Plan, which has been put back because of regulatory and technical reasons.
"Our hands are pretty much tied in relation to rollout of the National Broadband Plan because it is a very complex tendering process that's involved," he said.
Last week, the Government confirmed that the state-subsidised scheme will not begin construction until mid-2017. The government also says that 300,000 homes will not see any start to their broadband build until 2019.