TIF chair Anne O’Leary warns that planning bottlenecks will hurt broadband

19 Nov 2015

Torlach Denihan, director, TIF; Anne O'Leary, CEO, Vodafone and incoming chair of TIF; Alex White, TD, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

The lack of a joined-up approach to planning in Ireland is one of the main reasons communities across the country are still being deprived of broadband, the new chair of the IBEC-based Telecoms and Internet Federation (TIF), and Vodafone Ireland CEO, Anne O’Leary said.

O’Leary warned that unless planning bottlenecks are removed, efforts to make the country one of the most digitised nations in the world will be stymied.

Telecoms operators in Ireland have invested €3.2bn over the last five years. The Irish Government has received EU backing for a fully-costed intervention strategy that could amount to around €512m to pave the way for the National Broadband Plan to connect every home to a minimum of 30Mbps by 2020.

However, O’Leary said planning barriers need to be removed for such plans to succeed.

In recent months, TIF warned that the high cost of deploying fibre as well as frustrations with planning and access to dig up roads are likely to frustrate the plan.

National Broadband Plan could be a game changer

She praised the National Broadband Plan as a game changer with the potential to provide employment in rural areas, stem emigration and empower and enable the next generation of young entrepreneurs.

“Mobile and fixed connectivity is as essential to households and businesses as electricity or running water. Collectively, as an industry, we are making a significant, and I believe sometimes unnoticed, contribution to Ireland Inc.

“If we are to get serious about our connected future and to continue to invest at similar levels to provide the necessary connectivity, there needs to be joined-up thinking around the rules governing planning permission, which is often refused for arbitrary reasons.

“In addition, getting permission for telecoms infrastructure beside motorways is a challenge and rules for road opening and reinstatement are unduly onerous. These barriers must be addressed to provide communities with the connectivity they need,” O’Leary said.

Anne O’Leary also said that during all of her years working in the sector, it has never been as competitive and that this level of competition is set to continue. The ultimate beneficiary in all of this will be the consumer.

She also announced that TIF would continue its support of the Samaritans Ireland, 116123, free-to-call phone number for an additional three years from March 2016.

The annual value of the support is estimated to be in the region of €700,000 with a current average of 1,850 daily calls.

Since the partnership began in March 2014, 1m phone calls have been made to the free-to-call service.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years