I feel that the time has come for this state to actively pursue the issue of Broadband services throughout the country. I listen to the Government proclaim how our economy has changed and how we must position ourselves for the future. The Minister for Enterprise and Employment often speaks of our future as a ‘knowledge economy’ and indeed one of our larger exports is that of software. If this is the case and we wish to position ourselves internationally in that manner then it is of critical importance that this Government address the issues outlined in this Private Members Motion. The large international corporations we hope to attract will not wait for a number of years for the private sector to provide what is essentially a vital piece of public infrastructure.
Historically the state has intervened and actively promoted projects of National strategic importance. In the 1920’s our first Government worked with Siemens of Germany to construct the Hydroelectric Power Generating Station at Ardnacrusha in my own county of Clare. At the time this idea was laughed at, it was thought that Ardnacrusha would provide more than enough electricity for the fledgling state and yet within a short number of years the state continued on with its investment in critical electricity infrastructure. Ardnacrusha today provides less than 2% of the National Grids requirements.
The whole scheme of Rural Electrification is often referred to as the ‘quiet revolution’ in that it brought about major change to this country. It quite simply allowed our country to prosper both socially and economically.
The point about both of these projects is that the Government was innovative, visionary and committed enough to see through and be actively involved in projects which were of enormous benefit to the state.
The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in response to a Parliamentary Question of mine last July stated that ‘The role of Government is to implement regulatory and infrastructure policies to facilitate the provision of high quality telecommunications services, by competing private sector service providers in a fully liberalised market’. This Bridesmaids type role is not good enough and will never allow us progress to the standards we aspire to. This Private Members Motion seeks that the Government take a more active ‘hands on’ role. The motion seeks clear Political commitment to the provision of Broadband services allowing our economy to develop and prosper in the future.
I am sure the Minister understands just how significant the issue is and I would like to illustrate the potential of this infrastructure with an example from my own Constituency. E-Teams are a company based in Scariff, East Clare. This small Irish town is like many others with a population of approximately 800.
E-Teams provide a worldwide translation service. They have access to over 750 experienced professional translators allowing them to provide services in 139 languages. They have provided official translation services during both the Irish and UK Presidencies of the Council of the European Union
For them the issue of quality Broadband is critical.
The potential for the development of our economy is threefold in relation to Broadband.
The large international corporations, The entrepreneurial small and medium enterprises such as E-Teams, and indeed the possibility of working from home for the individual.
The societal benefits that could accrue from the third strand could indeed be significant all of this has not really been tapped into for the want of an ideological stand by the Government in relation to the provision of Broadband.
If the Government is serious about Broadband then it must at the very least set clear targets on average speeds, availability and penetration rates.
These targets must be achieved within set time-frames.
The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has to move beyond his regulatory and facilitatory role and it is for this reason that I support this motion.