‘Further delay in role-out of Rural Broadband Scheme unacceptable’- Feeley

Fianna Fáil Councillor, John Paul Feeley has called on the Acting Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, Alex White to intervene urgently to prevent the further delay in the implementing of the National Broadband Scheme; the contract for which will not now be signed until 2017 according to the Department thus delaying implementation. ‘A hold swathe of the country has no or totally inadequate broadband coverage, a service that is not an optional addition or a luxury but an absolute necessity like electricity, water which should be regarded as a given. Rural communities feel especially forgotten given the very poor levels of mobile telephone coverage in many areas also.’ The National Broadband Scheme was initially announced by then Minister Pat Rabitte in 2012 but the preliminary phase of ‘stakeholder consultation’ did not commence until 2014. The contract for the new National Broadband Scheme was to be signed in the second half of 2016 with role-out to be complete in three to five years. The taxpayer investment of 275 million was to provide 30mphs to every house and business throughout the country. ‘Up to 2014, Ireland has has some of the lowest levels of broadband access in Europe. Through some investment in large urban centres in terms of the role-out of fibre-broadband that has increased somewhat. Broadband for much of the country is haphazard and for many a distant hope. Once again hopes have been dashed through a complete lack of political will to drive this project to its conclusion. Minister White remains in office, he has full power to act, he must move to clear the remaining road-blocks so that the targets of 85% coverage by 2018 and 100% coverage by 2020 are met.’ Concluding, Councillor Feeley noted that the lack of proper broadband is stifling investment in rural area and an impediment to families in terms of access to educational, entertainment, banking and other services and a particular impediment to farmers and other rural based businesses. ‘Business cannot exist without this most basic of service, fibre-broadband is only available in the most limited of area in some towns, this has to change. We are all aware of business which suffer hugely and who have had to relocated because of poor service.’ ENDS