Michael Ring criticises slow roll-out of National Broadband plan

Michael Ring criticises slow roll-out of National Broadband plan

Michael Ring has said tens of thousands more homes could have been hooked up to high-speed broadband by now if mistakes had been avoided in the roll-out of the National Broadband plan.

Rural Minister Michael Ring said an extra 15% of houses would have already received high-speed broadband by now if maps had been drawn up to consider where homes are located.

Separately, Mr Ring said that he now wants to take responsibilities away from Transport Minister Shane Ross and Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty to bring them under his remit.

More than 500,000 homes and businesses are still without a service as the National Broadband Plan (NBP), which has been plagued by delay, has yet to get the green light. The process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention is network still underway.

A spokesperson for the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment said Minister Richard Bruton wants to bring the procurement process to a fair and impartial conclusion as quickly as possible and will bring a recommendation to Government in the coming weeks.

In 2017, the department signed a separate agreement with Eir, the country’s largest telecoms group, to complete around 300,000 units by the end of 2018 mainly around regional towns.

Mr Ring pointed out that under the Eir contract, cables had been brought half-way down some roads but stopped at particular houses which marked map boundaries, meaning the next house or a property directly across the road was not hooked up.

The Mayo TD said a more common sense approach could have been taken so that houses on the same road or in the same area would all have been hooked up as part of the Eir contract.

"We could have certainly got another 15% if we had let them do that but because it wasn't on a map, that's what they got in a contract and that what had to be done. Sometimes they look at maps and they don't actually see the housing that is there.

"(With )the actual existing plan they were given they could have got 10 or 15 % more of the country done but they couldn't do it because it wasn't in the existing plan."

But Mr Ring said that the roll-out of broadband is a "global issue" and not just a problem for rural Ireland.

"I was in Boston last year...Boston has the same problems as Dublin, the very same problem - housing, traffic, too many jobs and they cannot get them out to the regions.

"The Mayor told me himself that you go a mile outside of Boston city and they don't have high-speed broadband. So this isn't a rural problem this is a global problem and every other country is watching now how we are going to do it."

Meanwhile, Mr Ring identified a number of responsibilities that he wants to claw away from other departments.

"If I am here next year I will be going back to Government taking bits off other departments. I am at it already because I think this Department should now be strengthened."

Mr Ring said rural transport should be his responsibility and would be lobbying the Taoiseach to take control of this.

He also said that some Community Employment (CE) schemes, currently under the control of the Department of Social Protection, should be transferred to his Department.

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