A gamble on privatisation? - Broadband ownership

A GOOD number of the difficulties facing this society can be traced to an over-reliance on the market to solve problems.

We have a housing crisis because Government ended the practice of building social housing and curtailed supply. Just last month, plans around refuse collection had to be deferred because the ambitions of business and the public did not match. We have a two-tier health system, which is great if you have access to the right tier but less so if not.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s inexplicable refusal to copper-fasten the public ownership of Irish Water was one of the issues that cost Fine Gael so many seats in the recent election.

However, the belief that privatisation, more a fashion than a philosophy, was a cure-all reached its nadir when Telecom Éireann was privatised. Though it was an inefficient, over-unionised and bloated organisation, it had at least some commitment to the idea of public service. The iterations that followed had little or none. Marginal communities in remote areas for many years heard rumours about decent broadband but no practical experience of that life-changing technology.

The legacy of that process was seen yesterday when Government decided that the State-funded infrastructure needed to deliver broadband to every premises in the country will end up in private ownership. There is a touch of Hobson’s choice about this exposure to the niceties of commerce, so it must be regulated in the clearest and most active way.

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