A 56km fibre optic network involving an investment of €18m and spanning Wexford, Kilkenny, Carlow, Tipperary and Waterford is expected to be put in place next year as part of the 19-town National Broadband Strategy.
According to the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Dermot Ahern TD, the network will cover six of the 19 key towns, including Wexford town, Kilkenny, Carlow, Dungarvan, Waterford and Clonmel.
The project is 90pc funded by the EU and the Irish Government under the National Development Plan 2000-2006, and is part of a total investment package of €65m.
The new network will link industry, businesses, public buildings, educational institutions and residential users. Across the country, towns from Donegal to Cork will be connected to the new national backbone, providing businesses and citizens with cheap, always-on access to the internet.
The Government will shortly be appointing a management services company to sell on the internet capacity at wholesale rates to telecom and internet services providers.
Commenting on the new €18m network, Minister Ahern said: “Major progress has been made in making internet access cheaper. Digital subscriber line (DSL) prices have been halved and by next March we will have 75pc of all lines DSL-enabled. In addition, we have introduced flat rate internet access at low speeds and now we are continuing our rollout of even higher speed broadband networks.
Minister Ahern added: “These metro rings send a clear signal to any investor that these towns and cities are at the pioneering edge in terms of Internet access and willingness to embrace the information and ideas economy. Not alone will these six metropolitan networks support existing jobs in the south east, they will also prove an invaluable tool for inward investment and future job creation.”
By John Kennedy