A wit on Twitter late last year made the sweeping statement: “To the average Irish politician, broadband could well be a 1970s showband.”
This sad indictment is not wholly undeserved. Whether through a lack of understanding of what broadband technology can deliver by way of jobs and investment or through a fear of a population better informed than ever before, lack of political will in the past allowed Ireland to fall to the bottom of the heap when it came to broadband.
Since 2001, copper-based DSL has been a commercial disaster, with only 4pc of Ireland’s copper DSL lines unbundled and sold by licensed operators. The Group Broadband Scheme, modelled on the old Group Water Scheme, was an unmitigated disaster. And the One Stop Shop to join up miles of fibre owned by Irish semi-states and make it available to the telecoms industry still hasn’t materialised.
However, the State-backed metropolitan area networks that serve up 90 towns have led to increased foreign direct investment (FDI) in the towns they are located in. And the EU-backed €233m National Broadband Scheme by 3 Ireland is bringing a broadband service to 1,028 areas across rural Ireland resulting in 99pc of the population – in theory – able to access broadband.
A recent report by Cisco put Ireland 13th out of 72 nations for broadband quality, but described this country as “unprepared for the internet applications of tomorrow.”
But has the worm turned? Are Irish politicians finally switched on to the reality that there will be no job creation in Ireland unless the broadband issue is urgently addressed?
Read more of ‘Has our crumbling broadband network become an election issue?’ at Digital 21.
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