Dundalk TD calls on Government to engage with private operators to ensure 'decent rural broadband' delivered quickly

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Dundalk TD Ruairí Ó Murchú

The government needs to engage with private operators to ensure that 'decent rural broadband' is delivered as quickly as possible, Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú has told the Dáil.

The Dundalk TD was speaking during a motion on Project 2040, which included statements on the government's recently launched plan for rural Ireland.

He also raised the issue under promised legislation and pushed Tanáiste Leo Varadkar on the issue.

The Sinn Féin deputy, who is his party's spokesperson on broadband, said during the motion that on 'some level' there was 'no alternative to the National Broadband Plan but it 'needs to be accelerated'.

He said: 'We have heard much commentary from the Tánaiste and from the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, as to their conversations with National Broadband Ireland, NBI.

'I spoke to representatives of NBI myself and they brought up particular issues in respect of planning permission and dealing with Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, and local authorities.

'I am told these issues are being dealt with, which is necessary for this acceleration. This needs to happen. We also need to get timelines.

'Even in the best-case scenario, however, we are talking about a seven-year project becoming a five-year project.

'We need the Government to engage with private operators and to look at alternatives so that we can deliver decent rural broadband, whether by satellite or other means, as an interim solution before the full roll-out.

'I request that the Government do all it can and engage with these private operators in this regard. Sinn Féin will be bringing forward proposals in this area in the very near future because it is so important.

'We are talking about remote working but that will not be possible until people have the facilities to do so in their homes or in remote hubs. I call for this to happen as soon as possible'.

In response Minister Hildegarde Naughton said: 'I have just received confirmation that discussions are ongoing with NBI regarding other operators trying to fill in the gap.

'The Department is aware of the issues and we are working with the local authorities to try to unlock any of those challenges and do whatever we can to accelerate the roll-out.

'The Government and the Minister will be writing to NBI with regard to that acceleration process and will continuously apply pressure to ensure we get that delivery'.

Deputy Ó Murchú also asked Tanáiste Leo Varadkar about his engagement with NBI with a view to engaging with private operators as well as interim solutions for areas that are going to be waiting years for broadband.

In response, the Tanáiste said: As regards the national broadband plan, this is a €3 billion investment in rural Ireland. It is the biggest single investment in rural Ireland ever.

'It is now well under way. I have met NBI. We are exploring the possibility of accelerating the plan. It can only be done so fast. It will be approximately 100,000 homes, farms and businesses every year.

'If it can be done faster, it will, but it can only be done so fast.

'My meeting with NBI went quite well and we explored the kind of things that might be done to speed up the process'.