Paying for the National Broadband Plan

 

Sir, – In this country we have a sad legacy of sloppy rural planning that has led to a housing sprawl that is unequalled anywhere in Europe.

Thousands of houses are located in inaccessible areas where the nearest litre of milk could be four or five kilometres away, as well as places of employment, schools, doctors, hospitals and pretty much anything that sustains a normal 21st-century existence. Add to this the proliferation of inferior waste-treatment systems that normally accompany such developments, and we are left with a picture of an environmental and societal travesty.

It is now proposed that high-speed broadband be brought into every nook and cranny in the country at enormous cost in order to satisfy a maximum take-up rate of three or four in every 10 of these homes over the next 25 years. Therefore the plan is to validate the existing disaster by throwing a further €3 billion at it. Surely if the residents in these far-flung regions can happily satisfy their basic living requirements, it should not be necessary to spoon-feed them what is, as a practical matter, a non-essential. It has been openly admitted that the major reason for the high cost of this plan is the difficulty of reaching those in remote locations. An alternative to this mad scheme would be to take the service to villages and towns with a population of say 400 to 500 and create proper digital hubs in these places that could be accessed by the 30 to 40 per cent in the surrounding area that are ever likely to have an interest in broadband.

A possible additional benefit of this approach is that it might help curb the curious Irish urge to locate dwellings in the back-of-beyond, a practice that has massive individual, environmental and societal costs. – Yours, etc,

LIAM MEADE,

Ballyneety,

Co Limerick.

A chara, – I suppose it might just be too early to work out how wonderful the National Broadband Plan actually is. It might be better to wait a few years for a business pathologist’s report, which we can accept or reject depending on the local wifi reception. – Is mise,

DERMOT O’ROURKE,

Lucan,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Desist immediately from the practice of giving politicians columns in your newspaper (Leo Varadkar, “Expensive and challenging broadband rollout will be worth it”, Opinion & Analysis, May 8th). Does the Taoiseach not realise that when you are explaining you are losing? – Yours, etc,

P SMYTH,

Mulranny,

Co Mayo.

Sir, – Consideration must now be given to whether the Department of Public Expenditure should be abolished. After all, what is the point of having an expert advisory institution to oversee Government spending when its critical advice on such a flawed Government broadband plan is ignored in favour of political opportunism?

Thankfully we still have civil servants of integrity who are committed to the national interest. – Yours, etc,

BRENDAN BUTLER,

Malahide,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Government press releases and spokespersons persistently state that the Rural Broadband Scheme is “future-proofed”.

The phrase reminds me of a similarly baseless magical incantation beloved of a previous government, the “soft landing”. – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL DEASY,

Carrigart,

Co Donegal.

A chara, – While the present debate on the National Broadband Plan is being debated we would do well to fully understand the cost implications. The term billion is being bandied about as if it were loose change.

In terms of time, a billion seconds is equivalent to 31.7 years, and three billion is thus 95.1 years.

Food for thought. – Yours, etc,

GERRY BUCKLEY,

Ennis,

Co Clare.