July 10, 2020
Opinion

No political will to deliver on rural broadband promises

By JOHN TIERNEY

FOR those of us resident in the digital wasteland that either have no broadband coverage or have 1 Mb broadband access, the chatter about the National Broadband Plan (NBP) is tiresome.

Despite the high-profile launch of NBP in 2012, vast swathes of Ireland remain devoid of high speed broadband for work and recreational use.

It’s laughable to see ‘Digital Ireland’ being marketed abroad to companies in order for them to establish their commercial operation in this country, as if this Emerald Isle of ours was some sort of digital nirvana.

The reality is quite different: access to high speed broadband is city-bound which means companies are clamped to the city boundary when establishing their business footprint.

This leaves rural Ireland devoid of an industry stream that brings in its wake high-paying jobs, research and development and innovation.

How difficult can it be for the Government and technology and communication industries to come together to devise a viable commercial plan, which in turn is consumer price-friendly?

In order to transform Ireland from being a digital backwater to the type of hi-tech society the spin doctors would have you believe we live in, it is worth remembering the words of Thomas Edison when he said: “We will make electricity so cheap only the rich will burn candles.”

Sadly, it appears this task is beyond us, so perhaps instead we should look towards countries
who have made good on their digital commitments and are now reaping the rewards as a result.

Sending an e-mail via rural Ireland’s narrow digital spine could be problematic, so it might be best to use the envelope and stamp method to contact a suitable country to offer them the contract to connect our rural areas to the information superhighway.

If so, you may have to travel to your nearest major town or city with so many rural post offices now displaying ‘Closed’ signs.

The truth is that the political impetus is just not there to deliver broadband to all, and not just to some. If it was, you can be sure it would have been delivered to all of the masses a long time ago.

Once again, it seems, your living location determines your access to a service that could be deemed a human right.

 

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