JOE GILL: My plan to bring broadband to rural Ireland to boost jobs

Over the past week I’ve been meandering around the south coast and wandered up and down peninsulas in West Cork.

As usual I was remin ded what a powerful tourism asset Ireland possesses in its natural geography.

Combined with some form of instinctive friendliness this explains why so many Americans, Europeans and Asians leave the country after a visit effusive about their experience.

At the same time, my journey was an interesting reminder of the low population density that defines our rural and coastal environments.

In addition, there were many abandoned houses visible and others for sale at prices that could buy you a small garage in Dublin.

The Government is apparently reviewing its spending priorities in the wake of solid economic growth, continued international investment and a growing population that is imposing infrastructural pressures on the economy.

That discussion cannot be held without a holistic strategy that leverages the economic attractions of making rural Ireland a destination of choice for investors and families alike.

To do that, there is one simple piece of infrastructure that can cut through the noise to deliver a tool that helps investors and individuals choose rural Ireland to live and work — superfast broadband access.

The radio was full last week of debate about the latest Government initiatives to push forward broadband coverage.

It sounded like a whole load of hollow excuses were being deployed to explain why broadband could not be secured in rural areas.

At the same time, it seems like a multi-billion euro metro project, designed to service a narrow sliver of the Dublin population, is being seriously considered for a green light. This is Keystone Kops economics.

If I had a day with president Putin-like powers over the Irish economy it would go something like this.

At 7am please have the appropriate government department heads in my office to explain what part of “no excuses” do they not understand about the nationwide broadband agenda.

No ifs, buts or maybes. Full, unadulterated national superfast broadband access is to be in place before the end of 2018.

Any technical problems? Nope. Any legal issues? If so I’ll have the entire rural TD cohort in the Dáil support emergency legislation.

Any money issues? Take a tiny percentage of the budget for metro to fix that.

Any logistical deals? I’ll have the Army engineering corps made available to assist any needed emergency site works.

At 10 am let’s have a press conference to announce a timetable and name the ministers responsible for delivering.

A monthly tracker, available on the government website, will monitor the speed of deployment.

At 11 am I want the housing minister in to explain why rural houses can be left abandoned without penalties.

Either do up your house and use it or sell it. Otherwise, we’ll tax you for impairing the rural landscape.

Every house rebuilt or upgraded has to have high-speed broadband installed.

At 2 pm let’s have the IDA and Enterprise Ireland around for a cup of tea.

These are great organisations but I want them focused on profiling a broadband-ready rural Ireland to target anyone who can work remotely and values the attributes of a rural lifestyle.

Software engineers, writers, technical support organisations, outsourcing companies etc should all be marketed to as the broadband delivery drives on.

At 6 pm get on the national TV news to detail the emergency broadband infrastructure rollout plan.

It has simple objectives.

The purpose is to energise rural and coastal Ireland.

Using first world broadband technologies will create jobs and alleviate the woeful housing pressures in the capital.

It will help give individuals on the average industrial wage a shot at rearing families.

And to bring up families in communities that do not impose crushing mortgage debts for their lifetimes.


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