Following representations from constituents, I have taken up the issue of lack of broadband provision with Minister for Communications, Eamon Ryan. I also want to challenge the delay in implementing the National Broadband Scheme.
Like many other parts of Clare, Newhall has inadequate broadband cover. I have asked the Minister when the residents of the area can expect to have broadband and if he would make a statement on the matter in Dáil Éireann. The government has outlined their economic plan for the country in the past few days. Part of this plan is an IT drive in schools and funding of research and development. But the number of schools who don’t have proper computer facilities and broadband connection makes this plan redundant.
The National Broadband Scheme has been marked by continuous delays and mishandling. We are now being told that ‘hopefully’ the contract for the National Broadband Scheme will be signed before Christmas with ‘3′, a Hutchison Whampoa company. Meanwhile, the government launches aspirational plans for Ireland’s future, without dealing with the realities of the present.
The Minister said in his reply to me: ‘The role of the Government is to formulate regulatory and infrastructure policies to facilitate the provision of high quality telecommunications services, by competing private sector service providers.’
That says to me that we are now in a situation where the government has washed its hands of broadband provision in Ireland. It has left all the heavy lifting to the private sector to deliver the service while the country’s development is put on hold.
We know already, from arguments against the privatisation of the bus service, that privatisation attaches itself to profitable areas. In this instance, it does not work for the residents of Newhall, and many other areas of County Clare outside the urban centres which are coping with inadequate Internet access.
If this region wants to truly compete in terms of business and future development, then broadband provision is a key aspect of our infrastructure.
Unless this government gets on top of that, they are leading us to economic doom.