Light up, light up: National Broadband Plan could bring 2,600 jobs to rural Ireland

19 Jul 201799 Shares

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Engineers Ireland urges the delivery of National Broadband Plan as soon as possible.

Universal rural broadband connectivity in Ireland would generate 2,600 new direct and indirect jobs, Engineers Ireland has claimed.

In its latest report – ‘The State of Ireland 2017 – A Review of Infrastructure in Ireland’ – Engineers Ireland also calls on the Irish Government to establish a single infrastructure unit to embrace fresh ideas on policy.

‘The installation of Ireland’s nationwide broadband infrastructure is akin to the electrification of rural Ireland in the last century in terms of scale, ambition and the socioeconomic benefits it will deliver’
– DR KIERAN FEIGHAN

Currently, Eir, Siro and Enet are shortlisted for the tender for the National Broadband Plan (NBP), which could amount to an overall spend of €1.5bn to bring fibre connectivity to around 1.9m people. Other countries around Europe are eagerly watching the development as it could form the blueprint for similar roll-outs in rural areas in the EU.

However, the plan was originally intended to have launched in June and now it may not be announced until November. The constant delays to commencement are raising more questions than answers as to the ultimate feasibility of the plan.

The NBP was changed in April when the Government agreed a deal with Eir to grant the incumbent operator access to 300,000 homes in the intervention area.

This reduced the number of homes in the NBP intervention area to 542,000 premises, including an additional 84,500 identified for the Department of Communications’ Broadband Map, much to the displeasure of the other bidders vying against Eir.

Broadband just as vital as water and electricity for rural Ireland

In the Engineers Ireland report, the NBP is seen as an urgent measure to breathe life into Ireland’s rural economy, and it urged that the contract be awarded without further delay.

Commenting on Ireland’s communications infrastructure, the president of Engineers Ireland, Dr Kieran Feighan, stated that while networks overall were of an acceptable standard, the national broadband roll-out was critical to rural development and overall national competitiveness.

“The installation of Ireland’s nationwide broadband infrastructure is akin to the electrification of rural Ireland in the last century in terms of scale, ambition and the socioeconomic benefits it will deliver.

“The National Broadband Plan is a critical part of Ireland’s digital strategy in this respect. Its delivery as soon as possible is crucial in terms of supporting rural connectivity, all-Ireland enterprise and innovation, and would deliver around 2,600 new direct and indirect jobs.”

Feighan said that the arrival of the NBP would pave the way for the development of the ‘internet of farm’ concept and applications to support more efficient farming techniques. These include the deployment of rural broadband to support activities such as: soil and crop management (temperature/humidity sensors), autonomous tractors that can plough/sow 24 hours a day, and the monitoring of livestock health remotely.

He also said that all new housing developments should include provisions for infrastructure to support broadband roll-outs.

Other suggestions in the report include the acceleration of the development of Metro North, the DART Expansion Programme, the M20 and Luas line extensions.

It urged the Government to find ways to enable consumers and private car operators to purchase electric vehicles and plan for the electrification of the heavy rail network.

The report also called for new ways to encourage car-sharing to discourage multi-car households and on-street urban parking, and to improve connectivity of the north-west and the Atlantic Corridor to Ireland’s seaports.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com