Rabbitte unveils broadband plan

Thu, Aug 30, 2012, 01:00

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte says his national broadband plan is "the rural electrification of the 21st century".

The Minister outlined a series of "ambitious" targets to be met within the lifetime of the Government. He said 70-100Mbps should be available to at least 50 per cent of the population.

At least 40Mbps should be available to at least a further 20 per cent of the population and a minimum of 30Mbps available to all.

Mr Rabbitte said Taoiseach Enda Kenny had given him a commitment the State would provide funding of €200 million along with matching investment from private companies.

Mr Rabbitte unveiled Delivering a Connected Society – A National Broadband Plan for Ireland in Croke Park this morning. The plan is based broadly on the Report of the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce, published last May.

The taskforce’s membership included the chief executives of the six main telecoms service providers in Ireland.

State aid clearance by the European Commission will almost certainly be required to guarantee public funds are not substituting for potential private sector investment.

Preparation of that application is to start straight away, and the public funding may come from either the exchequer, the sale of State assets or other sources such as the National Pension Reserve Fund.

The Coalition is committed in the programme for government “to provide next generation broadband to every home and business in the State”. The plan being announced will set out the “policy and investment framework” to deliver this commitment.

Ronan Lupton of telecoms lobby group Alto said previous administrations had drawn up ambitious broadband plans, but the key now was to “implement and execute” the current plans.

He also said local government should be “encouraged to have broadband strategy at the front of their minds”.

The number of broadband subscribers in Ireland has grown from just over 400,000 to nearly 1.7 million over the past five years.

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