Ireland not the only EU state struggling with rural broadband

European Court of Auditors says the lack of rural broadband is pan-European

President of the European Court of Auditors Klaus-Heiner Lehne. The court said the State was on course to achieve its  2025   broadband targets

President of the European Court of Auditors Klaus-Heiner Lehne. The court said the State was on course to achieve its 2025 broadband targets

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Ireland is not the only EU state struggling to resolve the problem of rural broadband, representatives of the European Court of Auditors have said.

The agency, which audits the European Union’s finances and evaluates policy, said several state-backed initiatives in other member states had failed to adequately address the issue and that it was accelerating the urban-rural divide across the continent.

Members of the court, including Ireland’s representative Tony Murphy, who took over from Kevin Cardiff earlier this year, were in Dublin on Tuesday to meet various Government officials and showcase the court’s work.

In a report earlier this year, the agency assessed broadband services in five member states – Ireland, Poland, Italy, Hungary and Germany.

It concluded that, although broadband coverage has generally been improving across the EU, the goal of ensuring that half of European households have ultra-fast broadband connections by 2020 was significantly behind target.

In the case of Ireland, it noted that the delays were based on public procurement issues and that, while the State would have difficulty reaching its 2020 fast broadband targets, it was on course to achieve tougher 2025 targets.

Recent controversy

However, the report was concluded before the recent controversy surrounding former communications minister Denis Naughten’s meetings with the lead bidder, which has led to another delay in the process.

“If you don’t want to have more people leaving the countryside and going into the cities, you have to make the countryside more attractive for investment, for companies and for people living there,” the president of the European Court of Auditors, Klaus-Heiner Lehne, said. “And that’s only possible if they can participate in the communications worldwide and that means they need the necessary infrastructure.

“It is the state’s job to construct these networks as the private sector will only work in areas where they get the necessary profit,” Mr Lehne said.

In a report last week, the court was critical of the European Commission’s plans to reform the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which accounts for most of the subvention Ireland receives from Brussels.

Mr Lehne said reforms weren’t green enough, lacked focus and were contradictory.

“You spend a lot of money on the big players and they destroy the environment and then a smaller sum of money coming from the same budget is used to repair this,” he said.

Mr Murphy also highlighted the problem of filling the €15 billion hole in the EU budget in the wake of Brexit.

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