The Government’s announcement of a major telecommunications network build-out to rural Ireland must deliver affordable prices for rural Ireland, according to the IFA.

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte announced recently that over 1 million homes and businesses in rural Ireland are set to be connected to high-speed broadband after the Government approved the investment of up to €500 million in fibre-powered infrastructure.

The Minister said that this commitment is a clear expression of Government’s determination to address the connectivity challenge in rural Ireland in a meaningful and sustainable way.

“The provision of quality, reliable high speed broadband is a necessity for a 21st century economy and society. The last two years alone has seen dramatic increases in broadband usage and data traffic across broadband networks. This trend is set to continue as new applications and services emerge.”

The Minister noted that since publication of the National Broadband Plan the commercial sector has responded strongly in urban and semi-urban areas, offering competitive high speed services to consumers over multiple technology platforms, and are now investing approximately €2 billion in Ireland. However IFA President Eddie Downey will be judged on its ability to deliver a cost-effective service to all rural homes and businesses.

He said previous schemes had not reached the number of households promised. “Every house and business in the countryside must have the option of receiving a cost-effective, top class, fibre-based broadband service.”

He said IFA has raised the issue of equity of access to essential services in its Election Manifesto for the local and European elections. “The proposed new Scheme must deliver high-speed broadband at affordable prices for all businesses, homes and schools in rural Ireland.”