Independent TD Mattie McGrath has described the latest setback to the rollout of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) as a devastating blow to the prospects of economic rejuvenation in rural Ireland. Deputy McGrath was speaking after the UK utility company, SSE, withdrew from the NBP tendering process; a move which has cast significant doubt on the viability of the entire project:
“If we had broadband speed at the same pace as the rate at which promises around the NBP came out of government we would have had the problem solved years ago.
However, given that we have talking about it since then Minister Dermot Ahearn’s time in 2004, it is clear that political credibility is now at a premium.
As things stand the entire project seems to be collapsing faster than the government can spin about it.
This latest move by SSE has effectively taken a hammer to the expectations of hundreds of thousands of homes, businesses and schools in rural Ireland.
Without fast and efficient broadband speed, this government is ensuring that rural Ireland will be condemned to exist and operate in a two tier economy where the very capacity to do simple commercial or everyday tasks will be seriously hampered.
If we take a further step back and see this in the context of the challenges that Brexit is going to bring for the agri-sector and other aspects of the rural economy, then the size of the problem truly comes into scale.
On the one hand it feels as if rural Ireland is being threatened by the future fallout from a stagnant and chaotic political situation in the UK, while on the other hand its capacity to bounce back is being undermined by the utter failure of our own government to get a grip on the delivery of the NBP.
Without an effective resolution to this latest crisis it seems almost certain that yet another 14 years will pass before the delivery of broadband services to homes in rural Ireland will occur,” concluded Deputy McGrath.