Tuesday 17 September 2019

Playing political games over Broadband a reckless tactic

'Livelihoods depend on delivery of high-speed services and, difficult though it may sometimes seem to believe, there is a plan in place.' Stock image / PA
'Livelihoods depend on delivery of high-speed services and, difficult though it may sometimes seem to believe, there is a plan in place.' Stock image / PA
Editorial

Editorial

Life - the way it really is - is a battle not between good and bad, but between bad and worse, argued Joseph Brodsky. When it comes to the roll out of national broadband, rural business owners would concur.

Their hearts will not surge with hope on hearing Fianna Fáil is considering using Irish Water to expedite the process. It has been widely reported the National Broadband Plan is - to say the least - on shaky ground; but it will be a hard sell to convince that Irish Water has the answer. Public cynicism has historical precedent on its side.

Since the exit of Denis Naughten as communications minister, Richard Bruton was given what many would argue as a hospital pass, to deliver on a promise businesses across the country have been listening to since 2012.

In fact, it goes back much further. In 2009 amid much fanfare Fine Gael launched its New Era plan. There was excited talk about the appointment of a new "super manager" to ensure co-operation to improve energy and water supplies and offer world-standard broadband by 2013.

Well, we're still waiting.

For the record, they also promised radical changes in the way public utility companies and the semi-State sector would conduct themselves.

Most eye catching on the "to do" list, looking back almost a decade later, was the goal to "retro-fit the entire housing stock of 1.2 million homes; a commitment to 50pc of energy coming from renewable sources by 2020; to have the fastest broadband in Europe, and proposals that would result in 50pc of cars being electricity-run by 2025".

Even allowing for magical thinking, such grandiose notions were literally off the grid.

Frustrations are understandable but if Fianna Fáil is thinking of playing hard ball over broadband in the Confidence and Supply talks, it should think carefully.

Livelihoods depend on delivery of high-speed services and, difficult though it may sometimes seem to believe, there is a plan in place. True it has been haplessly delayed, but were it thrown out in a piece of political grand-standing, this would cause further delays.

Fianna Fáil's spokesman on communications Timmy Dooley is quite right to say any further delays to the National Broadband Plan would cause "even more worry and concern in the rural communities up and down the county".

But we ought not forget a process has been followed, and there must be a strong case for sticking with the plan rather than starting from scratch so late in the day.

One can empathise with the exasperation and annoyance. Nonetheless the time simply isn't there for any more procrastination.

Brexit-proofing the economy is already a major task; handicapping business further and running the risk of turning the whole thing into a political football would be recklessly irresponsible.

Irish Independent

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