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Doherty calls for state owned telecommunications grid

25 March, 2009 - by Pearse Doherty TD


Speaking in the Seanad today Sinn Féin Communications Spokesperson Pearse Doherty said his party is calling for a state owned telecommunications grid which would prioritise investment in rolling out broadband networks across the island.  Senator Doherty criticised Fianna Fáil Senators for patting themselves on the back even though their party has failed to deliver broadband throughout the state.

He said, “Broadband has become widely recognised as an essential tool for economic development in the 21st century. Communities, businesses and individuals without access to communications technology including broadband will get left behind.

“I am not supporting this pat-on-the-back motion which the Fianna Fáil senators have placed before the house, and why would I when even after all the years of increasing wealth that was available for investment, this state still lacks 100% broadband connectivity. Many communities, businesses and individuals continue to do without. Indeed, Ireland is now the only EU country where more people still use narrow band or dial-up.

“The state not only lags far behind the EU average in broadband rollout, it also has some of the highest costs and lowest speeds in the EU. This effectively penalises businesses that locate and remain here. It has to end.

“The so-called ‘digital divide’ is real and it runs along the standard axis of unequal regional development. The one in three uptake in Dublin may not be impressive, but it far outstrips the border region at just over one in ten. The National Broadband Strategy has glossed over this reality by listing areas as connected that in reality are not.

“Despite growth there are still problems with broadband access particularly in rural parts of Ireland. It is common for people in rural communities to struggle to send emails or even access the internet because they cannot get the service. Rollout of broadband in rural towns, villages and outlying areas is of vital importance to the future economic development of rural Ireland.

“Similarly to other key physical infrastructure networks, the Western seaboard region suffers from an inadequate broadband service. In 2006, only 12.7% of households in the Western region had broadband access. As a result of private market delivery of broadband, serious regional disparities have developed in broadband infrastructure. According to the 2007 Forfás Report on Broadband Rollout, take-up in Dublin is significantly higher (32.2 %) than take-up in the Border counties, this is almost half the national average at 12%.

“For the same economic reasons, every school without exception should be able to teach their curriculum through information and communications technologies and every school must be fully ICT enabled. This means providing and updating teacher training, equipment, teaching materials, PCs and laptops.

“While broadband access is available to the majority of schools, most find their computers and technologies are too old to operate it. Broadband needs modern computers and networks to operate effectively. It is simply a waste of tax-payer’s money to introduce broadband into schools that cannot afford to replace or upgrade hardware. More than 8 in 10 of our schools need a significant proportion of their computer equipment repaired or updated.

“Sinn Féin believes that a national island wide broadband infrastructure is a vital element of the economy and supports a state owned telecommunications grid, which would prioritise investment in rolling out broadband networks across the island.

“Sinn Féin supports universal access for broadband, it is an important tool for business and education and every home should have broadband access.” ENDS

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