Minister admits big problem with rural broadband speed
ONE-in-three people will only have access to very basic broadband services by 2015, the Government has admitted.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte yesterday said the Government faced a "major challenge" to deliver high-speed internet access to homes and businesses.
High-speed broadband will allow people to download movies quickly, watch live sports on their laptops and provide state-of-the-art communications services. It is seen as vital to the country's future economic development, especially in the hi-tech sector.
But speaking at the launch of a report on how so-called Next Generation Broadband (NGB) will be rolled out across the country, Mr Rabbitte said that providing high-speed internet in rural areas was difficult.
"Industry is telling us that by 2015 more than 50pc of the population will have access to very fast broadband," he said.
"We can also expect that most of the rest of Irish homes will be able to access broadband which, by today's standards, would be considered very good quality.
"However, we face a major challenge because 15-30pc of the population will continue to have basic broadband service only, as the case for commercial investment in rural areas is very challenging."
Since 2007, the number of people with broadband has grown from 437,000 to 1.6 million, with €2.5bn invested in the network.
Under the NewEra proposals in the Programme for Government, there is a commitment for the State to co-invest with the private sector and commercial semi-state sector to provide next-generation broadband to every home and business in the country.
A taskforce made up of civil servants, Mr Rabbitte, NewEra Minister Fergus O'Dowd and the heads of the six main telecommunications companies in Ireland, including BT, Eircom and Vodafone, yesterday said the Government "might" consider investing in services in parts of the country where commercial investment was unlikely.
"In light of the ambitions in the Programme for Government, the Government might wish to examine measures which would accelerate and enhance the rollout of high-speed services," it said.
It also said that 20,000 companies had no internet access, and 21pc of Irish adults had never gone online. Overcoming this "lack of engagement" was a "serious challenge", and a national awareness campaign should be co-funded by Government and business to present a "positive and compelling case" around the benefits of the internet. It also found that high-speed internet access could have a "transformative impact" on society, helping economic growth, job creation and competitiveness.
"As a country we need investment in high-speed broadband infrastructures and services," the report said.
"These services are the foundation of our future competitiveness and will be a driving force in job creation and rebuilding Ireland's economy."