Fine Gael TD for Kildare South Martin Heydon, has said that the strategy for state intervention in broadband provision announced by Government this week is welcome for those parts of rural Ireland without high speed broadband. However, Deputy Heydon believes the ultimate timeline up to 2020 is still too slow for the many residents in rural areas who do not have access to high speed broadband.
“I know that it has been a frustrating wait for broadband for many people in rural Ireland, but progress is being made. In 2010, the year before this Government came into office, high speed broadband was only available to 300,000 homes in Ireland. Now over one million homes have it, with the potential for commercial operators to deliver high speed services to as many as 1.9 million premises.
“However the progress needs to be faster for those who are still waiting. The publication of the state intervention strategy by Minister Alex White yesterday now opens up a period of public consultation to run until September and the process which will also require EU approval for state investment.
“As this process continues however, commercial operators such as Eircom are adding rural areas to their list of areas for commercial investments which is removing these areas from the Government intervention plan without any clear or improved timeline of when the commercial services will be available.
“I have requested confirmation from both the Department of Communications and Eircom of how these areas will be affected and for details of how the two bodies are interacting on the process. While the investment from commercial operators is very welcome and reduces the investment required from the state, I don’t want to see areas selected by commercial operators take longer than if they were getting state intervention.
“Achieving universal access to broadband is a key part of Fine Gael’s “Standing up for Rural Ireland” campaign. Rural Ireland is alive but it is changing and the demand for broadband is one of these changes. High speed broadband is no longer a luxury but a necessity for most households in Ireland and I do not want to see those in rural areas lose out. If additional funding is required to speed up the process, I want to see that put in place to ensure universal next generation broadband coverage is fully delivered as soon as possible.
“The public can have their say on the National Broadband Plan up to the 14th September at www.broadband.gov.ie.”