Hope tinged with scepticism

Rural broadband promises

A bright, new, connected broadband future has been promised almost as often as your average rural, and not so rural, broadband service collapses. The announcement from Minister for Communications, Energy, and Natural Resources Alex White — when he published online national and county maps that identify the homes, businesses, and schools where commercial providers will deliver high-speed broadband access by the end of 2016 — is very welcome. That welcome must be tinged with a degree wait-and-see and some scepticism justified by the litany of similar promises made by Mr White’s equally sincere predecessors.

Be that as it may the announcement finally recognises that rural broadband will not become a reality unless Government at least partially finances its provision. This sad reality is a legacy of the disastrous privatisation of Eircom and the vulture profit-taking by a series of investors all of those years ago. This dilemma underlines, despite assurances from Taoiseach Enda Kenny, why a referendum to amend the Constitution to put Irish Water beyond the reach of the markets’ privateers is so very necessary.

Decent broadband services may not be as essential as water but without those basic links so much of modern commerce is impossible. Broadband campaigners estimate that up to 10,000 jobs might be created each year if the service was available. That is reason enough to provide it.

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