Rural Ireland is ‘sick of playing broken promises bingo’ on broadband

Comments around the acceleration of the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan have been welcomed by Macra na Feirme – but the association says the next government must do far more than simply “seek” to accelerate roll-out.

The rural youth organisation believes that the long-awaited roll-out of the National Broadband Plan must be the single highest priority in regard to rural Ireland for the next government.

Many of Macra na Feirme’s members, alongside rural young people, have struggled to access adequate internet coverage for remote working during the Covid-19 crisis, the group has said.

The struggles experienced by many rural residents highlight the urgency with which the National Broadband Plan needs to be accelerated, it was asserted.

Commenting, Macra’s Rural Youth Committee chairman Shane Quigley said: “Rural Ireland is sick of playing broken promises bingo when it comes to broadband roll-out. We can’t be left behind yet again.

“No remote working policy can work for rural Ireland without strong stable connections,” Quigley added.

Private providers of broadband who are benefiting from public funds must be accountable to the Irish rural taxpayer and offer an equal level of service, including aftercare.

Macra na Feirme national president Thomas Duffy also commented, adding: “Digital hubs are now a vital service that we need to see through rural towns and villages allowing young people to be free to live and work in their communities.”

The contract for the National Broadband Plan was formally signed last November. At the time, it was envisaged that some 300 establishments – such as community centres, schools, library hubs and local GAA halls – in every county would be connected to high-speed broadband during 2020, as will as private premises, farms and businesses.