The exclusion of over 300,000 homes, the majority of which are in rural Ireland, from the Government-subsidised element of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) is completely unacceptable, according to Independent TD Mattie McGrath.

Deputy McGrath was speaking ahead of an announcement by the Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten, on the National Broadband Plan. McGrath maintains that the Minister will confirm that the revised plan will “significantly increase the delays in connecting large parts of rural Ireland to fibre-based internet connections“.

“People in rural Ireland, from SMEs to local schools, will be devastated by the announcement of further delays to what has already been a considerably drawn-out process,” McGrath said.

“The Minister, in July, fully accepted a Dail Motion that I and my Rural Independent colleagues put forward that called on the Government to ensure that no home, school or business is left behind in the implementation and delivery of the NBP.

“We also received unanimous Government and Dail support – to ensure that, where there is a doubt of delivery by the telecoms sector, assurances will be provided that those homes, schools or businesses will get an affordable high-speed broadband connection and can be included as part of the State intervention if necessary.

“I want to hear the Minister confirm that he will live up to those assurances when he makes his announcement on the roll-out of the NBP today,” he said.

Rural Ireland is sick and tired of being the poor relation when it comes to the delivery of quality services that the rest of the country can take for granted.

“We have had enough delays and extended delivery dates. If the reports are accurate, it will be well beyond the 2021 deadline before parts of rural Ireland will see increased connection speeds. This will have a rapid and deteriorating effect on the quality of life and the capacity of businesses to survive.

“The Minister must offer us more than the private assurances of the preferred bidders.

“We need Government guarantees around delivery or else the climate of uncertainty that is already eroding the SME sector will continue to the detriment of us all – rural and urban,” McGrath concluded.