Follwing weeks of speculation, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Dermot Ahern TD, has confirmed this afternoon that the Government is planning to provide broadband connections to all schools and libraries next year and hopes to fund the scheme through a levy on telecommunication firms.
Speaking in the Estonian capital of Tallinn this afternoon, the minister said he would be meeting with senior figures in the telecommunications sector to map his plans to bring high-speed internet connectivity.
“The internet is a great learning tool and resource. All schools are linked to the world wide web, but we need fast, always-on quality connectivity which only broadband can provide. I am determined that, through the involvement of the telcos, we can provide the resources to make broadband for all primary schools a reality,” Minister Ahern said.
The Government is spending €63m on the 19 towns broadband project. For less than €30m per annum it should be possible to provide broadband links to all schools, the minister insisted.
“I believe the telcos has a role to play here and my officials will be in contact with the sector on how best to deliver broadband to schools and libraries. The sector are aware of my plans and have expressed their misgivings, but I firmly believe that the telcos will benefit in the long term because it will stimulate the development of broadband applications,” he continued.
Providing broadband connectivity to schools is to be one of his key objectives during Ireland’s Presidency of the EU, which begins in January. Ahern said broadband connectivity is critical to the country’s future.
“Since the beginning of the year, digital subscriber line prices have been halved and next week I expect to see a number of flat-rate products coming on the market. Our internet take up of 38pc has to be upped. High-speed connectivity in schools will drive that penetration,” he concluded.
The minister had a series of meetings in Tallinn with senior Government figures, including the Estonian Economic and Communications Minister, Meelis Atonen. According to Minister Atonen, all Estonian schools have broadband connectivity.
Ahern was briefed by the CEO of Eesti Telecom, Jaan Mannik, on how the incumbent telecommunications operator financially supported the rollout of broadband to Estonian schools.
By Lisa Deeney