| 8.4°C Dublin

Editorial: We are all obliged to assist our rural communities

Eircom is to challenge its 'Universal Service Obligation' to provide a network of telephone lines to the remotest parts of the Irish countryside.

Rural Ireland has long been under attack. Garda stations and post offices have been closed. Marauding gangs have driven people from the countryside to the towns. New laws have changed the patterns of rural life forever.

It is difficult not to sympathise with Eircom, now a private company labouring to escape a considerable pile of debt and searching for ways to cut its costs. The company inherited its 'public service obligation' from its previous incarnation as the state company Telecom Eireann. Now in the digital era it appears to Eircom that providing a fixed-line service to rural Ireland is an anomaly which it should not have to bear alone.

The company will argue that the continuation of such a service to the most rural and remote parts of the country should be financed by a new fund, supported by other telephone operators.

Rural communities will be heartened to note that Eircom is not arguing that such a service should end, just that it alone should have to bear the costs.

Universal service obligations have existed in electricity, communications and transport services for many years and it is only right that they should continue so that some semblance of the fabric of rural Ireland can be maintained.

City dwellers might ask why their taxes should be used for such services, but they should reflect that a great deal of money is also spent on the infrastructure, transport and otherwise, of our cities and so nobody should begrudge the people of rural Ireland the public service obligations they enjoy and should continue to enjoy.

Irish Independent