The towns of Kinnegad, Kilbeggan and Gweedore have become the first locations to avail of the Government’s €25m Group Broadband Scheme. Further towns and villages with less than 1,500 residents are due to sign up to the scheme in the near future.
Kinnegad and Kilbeggan in county Westmeath will access broadband via wireless technology. Gweedore in county Donegal will connect to a broadband network through a combination of satellite and wireless links.
The Government scheme operates where residents of rural communities can show demand for broadband in their area. They can then apply for grant-aid directly to the Government or in partnership with an internet service provider. The Group Broadband Scheme differs from the Group Data Scheme proposed by Christian Cooke, former chairman of the lobby group Ireland Offline (as reported yesterday in siliconrepublic.com). The latter programme, which is in the process of being launched, involves setting up community-owned networks.
In Kinnegad and Kilbeggan, two local community groups drove the project in tandem with the ISP, Last Mile Wireless. In Gweedore, the local Chamber of Commerce and Udaras na Gaeltachta championed the cause for broadband, working with the ISP Ildana Teoranta. The Government has provided 55pc capital funding for these projects, which is the maximum allowable under EU rules. This money can be used to offset the capital expenditure costs of establishing a network, such as setting up a base station and providing customer premises equipment for accessing the internet.
According to Gareth Pelly of Broadband4Kinnegad, who has campaigned for some time to have the town receive high-speed internet access, the Government scheme provides the necessary initial investment to attract ISPs that might otherwise concentrate on serving larger towns. “It’s an incentive for an ISP to come into an area they might not set up in,” he told siliconrepublic.com.
Pelly welcomed the Government scheme, adding: “It’s fantastic news; broadband’s becoming a service almost as essential as water, electricity or gas. Now Kinnegad becomes an attractive place to live and to do business in.”
Dermot Ahern TD, Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, announced the first participating locations earlier today, calling it “an historic day” for the small towns and villages of Ireland. “With the advent of the broadband revolution, as Minister responsible for communications I always said I was not going to preside over the haves and have-nots, the so-called digital divide. Today’s occasion provides every other small town, village or rural area with proof that they can benefit from broadband also.”
By Gordon Smith