Government called on to fix digital deficit

22 Sep 2006

The telecoms industry has called on the Irish Government to invest in providing broadband to the last 10pc to 15pc of the country that does not have the technology, it emerged yesterday.

Over 85pc of Ireland is now addressed by broadband services, the Telecommunications and Internet Federation (TIF) said.

However, because it is not financially viable for these firms to provide services in the last 10 to 15pc of the country, primarily rural areas, telecoms firms want the Government to make the necessary investment.

This, TIF says, would deliver on the national objective of 100pc broadband availability.

TIF chairman Gerry Fahy, who is also strategy director of Vodafone Ireland, said that the future of Ireland’s knowledge economy is in the hands of both Government and industry.

“Industry is investing a great deal in putting the broadband networks and infrastructure in place and in promoting and in competing for new broadband customers,” said Fahy.

He noted that market forces alone cannot ensure total broadband availability. “On its own, industry cannot address the digital deficit in relation to the last 10pc to 15pc and there is a clear need for Government funding to address that problem, which is primarily in rural areas, as has been recognised in other markets.”

For example, Northern Ireland has now achieved 100pc population coverage resulting in a boost to the region’s perception overseas in terms of inward investment.

However, putting infrastructure in place is only part of the solution and consumers need to embrace the technology.

“Supply today far exceeds demand and we need to jointly study and understand the demand inhibitors and learn from other markets. Demand issues have been tackled elsewhere by governments with very mixed results but only successfully with the joint collaboration of industry and government.

He called for greater collaboration between the Government and industry on the problem: “We are calling on the Government to engage fully with industry to ensure we can jointly work to deliver on the national objective of a knowledge-based society.

“There is no reason why broadband availability should not reach 100pc. Anyone who wants broadband should be in a position to get it. It’s in all our hands,” Fahy said.

By John Kennedy