Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell has indicated that the broadband saturation level in Ireland is one of the lowest in the EU and has warned that the poor availability of broadband here is an impending disaster for the Irish economy.
Mitchell pointed to Euro Stat figures that show that Ireland’s broadband saturation level is just 1.7pc, compared with other European countries that have a saturation level of more than 12pc.
For example, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden have saturation levels of 15.6pc, 14.8pc, 14pc and 12pc respectively. Our nearest neighbour, the UK, has a saturation level of 7.3pc.
The Euro Stat figures also show that Ireland has the second lowest percentage of internet access for medium-sized enterprises and the fourth lowest for small enterprises.
“This is a disgracefully poor level of broadband penetration when compared with our innovative European neighbours who have reached a saturation level of more than 12pc,” Mitchell said. “Denmark and the Netherlands are way ahead of Ireland in this regard. Poor broadband access is a key obstacle for Ireland to improve our economy on a global scale.”
Mitchell said the EU has already produced a clear and ambitious plan for a European dynamic knowledge-based economy in the form of the Lisbon Strategy, which was agreed upon by European leaders in 2000. Mitchell says it is now time for the Irish Government to address “this appalling lack of broadband access in Ireland”.
“I have received several complaints from businesses about difficulty with access to broadband,” Mitchell continued. “This level of concern from businesses makes me worry about the future of Ireland’s economy.
“Bridging the digital divide will be key not only to the economy as a whole but also to addressing regional economic and social imbalances. Delivering more and better job prospects throughout the country will be the real result of greatly expanding and improving broadband internet penetration, but these jobs will go elsewhere, with disastrous consequences, for Ireland if we do not act now,” Mitchell warned.
By John Kennedy