Friday 14 December 2018

Editorial: 'Beating Brexit depends on broadband plan - roll it out'

'Attracting foreign multinationals without standard infrastructure in place such as broadband is a no-brainer.' Stock Image
'Attracting foreign multinationals without standard infrastructure in place such as broadband is a no-brainer.' Stock Image
Editorial

Editorial

Sometimes it can be good news when nothing is found, even after extensive searching. Independent auditor Peter Smyth's announcement the National Broadband Plan (NBP) was not undermined or compromised by private meetings between former minister Denis Naughten and Granahan McCourt is a case in point.

If one was to select a single issue to represent the rural/urban divide in Ireland, it would be harder to chose a better example than access to high-speed broadband.

It seems extraordinary a country which some of the biggest tech firms in the world call home still has more than 500,000 homes and businesses waiting on the NBP in their area.

They were first promised access to it by Fine Gael, amid much fanfare, when it launched its New Era plan in 2009. They were further reassured the entire country would enjoy "world-standard broadband" by 2013. Almost six years on, we may finally be getting to a point where actions will speak louder than hollow commitments.

Mr Smyth concluded that Mr Naughten's decision to resign "insulates the process from any apparent bias created by his engagements with Mr McCourt".

Nonetheless, Mr Smyth's report also states Mr Naughten should not have met Mr McCourt privately. But the critical point is, he did not influence the tender, nor did he have any commercially sensitive information to impart. Mr Naughten's judgment may have been a bit off, but his eagerness to drive the process forward was entirely understandable.

All the same, it is some time since Pierre Dos Utt Tanstaafl, in his 'Plan for a New Economic World Order', wrote: "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."

Mr Naughten has moved on and so too must the rollout of this process.

The Department of Communications evidently feels Granahan McCourt still possesses the expertise to deliver the rural network.

No doubt there will be some butting of heads with Eir over costs for the use of its poles. The Opposition feels there are still questions that demand answers. There may well be, but people have waited long enough. Swathes of the country cannot be ostracised from progress.

If the economy is to thrive in a digital age, access to information must be its driver.

Attracting foreign multinationals without standard infrastructure in place such as broadband is a no-brainer.

Livelihoods depend on the delivery of high-speed services. Though sometimes it may seem otherwise, there is a plan in place. A process has been followed and there is a compelling case for sticking with the blueprint.

The imperative is to Brexit-proof the economy as best we can.

Handicapping business further for short-sighted political ends would be economic sabotage. It is time to focus on delivery, not delay.

Irish Independent

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