The Government of Ireland has not scaled back on its broadband ambitions, Communications Minister Alex White, TD, said in relation to the €512m rural broadband plan at today’s Digital Ireland Forum in Dublin.
White, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, said the Government remains committed to deploying fibre to rural areas as part of a plan revealed by previous communications minister Pat Rabbitte that will see overhead lines used to drive fibre to rural areas generally considered unviable by telecoms operators.
White said broadband access in Ireland has grown from 155,000 subscribers in 2005 to 1.7m this year.
“This investment and activity is largely concentrated in more densely populated areas and the industry has made it clear that there are parts of the country they cannot address commercially. This is exacerbating an already urban-rural divide in this country.”
Quality broadband for all citizens
He said the Government is committed to making high quality broadband available to all citizens, irrespective of their location.
He said the same foresight the US had shown in the 1950s to build interstate highways, taking into account future congestion, needs to be shown by the Irish State in 2014 and beyond.
“We face similar challenges and we must build digital highways for the future.”
White said the €512m broadband intervention by the State will extend to every location in every county in Ireland.
“My department officials are working closely with industry on a detailed mapping exercise. The results will be published in November on my department’s website via an interactive mapping tool.
“This will be followed by a publication consultation where operators and citizens can give feedback to ensure we have identified areas that require intervention.”
White said the €512m intervention plan will be dynamic and subject to change and will be defined by a competitive tendering process to appoint a winning bidder to build the network.
“The programme is challenging for a variety of reasons and I would ask for the public’s forbearance.
“We are anxious that the programme is delivered quickly and we go about our business in a way that is compliant with regulatory, financial and legal rules that exist.
“I am confident that the wait will be worthwhile and we will be able to bring a fully-costed programme to cabinet.”
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Alex White, TD, delivers the opening address at the Digital Ireland Forum at the Convention Centre Dublin this morning – Part 1of 2
Economic and social obligation
White said the necessity of rolling out a proper, nation-wide fibre infrastructure is not just about ensuring people in rural areas can enjoy Netflix, but that it is a moral responsibility, imperative to future social and economic sustainability.
“He said it is about the efficient delivery of public services, it is about the future sustainability of individual communities, attracting people to relocate from cities to rural parts of the country.
“There is a clear economic and social imperative in sparsely populated parts of country. As with electrification, investments like this are laying foundations for economic and social prosperity.
“We have certainly not scaled back ambitions as recent press reports have suggested.
“Together, alongside commercial investment, the government is committed to ensuring all premises in Ireland have access to modern and future-proofed broadband services,” White added.