The National Broadband Plan that is being rolled out by government must ensure that every home has access to quality broadband services. Deputy Fitzmaurice has called into question the feasibility of the NBP (National Broadband Plan) and whether it will deliver what it promises.
Minister Naughton and his Department have embarked upon an ambitious plan for broadband services that is commendable but we have to ask, is it achievable? Given how close we are to completing the tendering process and awarding the contracts, we need to ask the hard and uncomfortable questions”.
Already this year we have had the plan reviewed and found that 170,000 premises were categorised incorrectly. What if during the roll-out of the plan, there are more premises found to have been incorrectly categorised; who’s going to pick up the tab and who is going to deliver broadband to these homes and businesses?
In Comreg’s Q3 report this year, only published last week, it showed no increase in the number of premises connected with fibre. Despite all the launches and press statements from Eir and Siro in respect of FTTH (Fibre to the Home) either no one can avail of this service or no one is signing up. If huge players like these can’t get this working in built up areas how can it work in rural Ireland?
I have seen it myself; in areas where the fibre is activated potential users are not even informed about it. More needs to be done in respect of educating those who can avail of services of their availability and the process they must go through to avail of the improved service. Many of the communities have been waiting years for Fibre roll-out; they must be informed about availing of it.
“Comparisons have been made with the Rural Electrification Scheme. This scheme was launched in the 1930’s and while most homes had been connected to the grid by the 1970’s, the last communities were not connected until 2003. Rural communities must not wait up to 70 years to see the benefits of the NBP.
By the time fibre does or does not come to rural areas I fear there will be no-one left to avail of it. We need action now. We must look at interim solutions, such as Fixed Wireless Broadband, which are cost effective to ensure we can keep people in rural Ireland whilst we roll out FTTH. By no means is this an excuse to delay the FTTH roll-out. We must keep the foot on the accelerator in order to ensure high speed broadband is delivered to every community, every home and every business throughout rural Ireland.
The government and the Minister are effectively putting all of our eggs into one basket; with a plan that could take years to deliver. We are not 100% sure what premises will be covered at the moment and whether it will be possible to deliver FTTH to every home. Even if this entire infrastructure is put in place; are homeowners and businesses going to pay for FTTH, what will the cost for consumers be? These questions must be answered before pen is put to paper with the NBP.
Delivery of broadband in Rural Ireland is more complex than just one solution and I am requesting that the Minister and his officials, tread carefully before making any final decisions. Let’s ensure that we don’t limit our options in the provision of broadband to rural areas. It is going to take time but at the rate technology is developing rural Ireland cannot wait until the FTTH is rolled out. We need an interim solution now.