Farming bodies have reacted angrily to the news that the Department of Communications’ is experiencing delays in the bidding process for the National Broadband Plan.
The National Broadband Plan had promised to deliver subsidised modern Internet to 750,000 rural homes and businesses by 2020. The awarding of the contracts was set to take place in the middle of this year however, the plan has been delayed because of issues surrounding the negotiations with bidders for the process. The Department now says the awarding of the contract to the winning bidder or bidders will not take place until 2017.
IFA Environment and Rural Affairs Chairman Thomas Cooney has described the decision as “a backward step that will undermine the enterprise potential of rural Ireland and impact on thousands of farm families and rural dwellers.”
“The current reality is that over 40% of the country does not have a basic broadband connection. The unacceptable delay proposed by the Department of Communications means that the digital divide will continue. Over 750,000 rural households across the country continues to be denied a modern fibre broadband network. This is impacting on the access to services via the internet and the competitiveness of many rural micro-businesses.”
Concluding he said, “There is an urgent need for a new incoming Government to demonstrate their commitment to rural Ireland to review and reverse this decision.”
ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock said “It is further evidence that rural Ireland is not getting the priority it deserves. This delay will have the knock on effect of further isolating and marginalising rural communities. The broadband rollout may now not be completed until 2022, it’s totally unacceptable that we are so far behind the curve on this issue.”
Continuing Mr Sherlock said, “People living in rural communities urgently need proper broadband with local banks and post offices closing. Also, the time is fast approaching when all farmers will be required to complete their BPS applications online, which when you don’t have access to broadband will cause serious difficulties. I am calling on the department to sort out their so-called planning and procedural issues on this matter because the people of rural Ireland are not prepared to wait.”