Rural dwellers left in ‘limbo’ with latest broadband announcement

The National Broadband Plan has descended into a state of ‘farcical chaos‘, with many rural dwellers destined for ‘limbo’, according to Fianna Fail TD Eugene Murphy.

The Roscommon-Galway TD was speaking following the latest announcement from the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten.

Hundreds of thousands of rural dwellers are to be left in broadband limbo after the Government signed a contract with Eir to slash the number of homes included in the State-subsidised National Broadband Plan,” he said.

With the new contract handing over future broadband provision for 300,000 rural homes to Eir, the Government is now unable to say when roll-out for the majority of the homes will get underway, Murphy said.

It means that the project, which was due to begin this year, may not start with any building phase until late 2018.

“The whole commercial viability of the National Broadband Plan is now in question. It simply beggars belief. We now have a situation with communities going in [to the plan], only to be taken out less than a year later,” he explained.

“Last July, the National Broadband Plan had its number of eligible households increased by 170,000. We now see the Minister removing 300,000 and adding a further 85,000 – leaving a net reduction of 215,000,” Murphy said.

Roscommon, Murphy said, has ‘appalling’ broadband connectivity; with just 36% of premises having access to high-speed broadband.

“Accessing quality broadband is a core requirement for small and medium-sized businesses across the country.

The provision of quality broadband for rural Ireland is a matter of necessity for survival. It really is akin to the transformation which rural electrification caused – that’s how important it is.

“A recent Amarach survey showed that one in four rural dwellers said they would think about leaving their area to live in an area with adequate broadband.

“Communities and businesses are furious that they are still left waiting for high-quality broadband six years after the National Broadband Plan was first announced,” he concluded.