‘Broadband officers’ to oversee revamp in rural areas

A ‘broadband officer’ position is set to be created for every county in a bid to fast-track improvements in the sector after years of rural community delays.

The move is due to be agreed at cabinet today at a meeting which will also see new domestic violence bill laws signed off on by ministers including TV-link court evidence for victims, plans to ban forced marriages and the scrapping of all exemptions for under-18s to marry.

Under plans brought forward by Communications Minister Denis Naughten and Rural Minister Heather Humphreys, a liaison position between councils and phone firms is to be set up for every county.

The roles are expected to lead to fast-tracked discussions on how to improve broadband services in otherwise isolated areas as firms specialising in the sector will now have a single point of contact when seeking to address changes.

The plan is part of a wider attempt to address chronic broadband difficulties, including more than 20 other recommendations expected to be published in a report on the issue later today.

The broadband plan is due to be discussed at a cabinet meeting which will also see ministers asked to sign off on a new domestic violence bill increasing protections for those at risk.

The bill, which is being brought forward by Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, includes a new eight-day emergency barring order for co-habiting couples; a ban on an abuser contacting their victim online; and potential TV-link court evidence laws to further protect victims.

Other changes will be rules banning forced marriage; fresh powers for courts to take children’s views into consideration; and the repeal of exemptions allowing under-18s to marry.

Today’s cabinet meeting is also expected to see Ms Fitzgerald seek new powers to tackle terrorist-linked money laundering, Education Minister Richard Bruton provide an update on an imminent review of services for disadvantaged schools, Health Minister Simon Harris outlined a new 2016-2019 Health Strategy plan, and Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone seek new powers to bring in up to 200 refugee children from Calais.

While ministers will also be given space to express their views on the Apple tax ruling, Taoiseach Enda Kenny is expected to only re-state the Government’s previous position on the Apple tax issue.


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