The Government is to invest €314m to deliver high-speed broadband to Cork city and county, it has been revealed.
The National Broadband Plan, set to cost €3bn, will be the biggest investment in the Republic of Ireland since rural electrification.
The Cabinet approved the proposal to sign the contract yesterday and the rollout of high-speed broadband to more than half a million homes throughout the country will begin in January.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the plan will enable young people to stay in Ireland and work remotely instead of having to emigrate.
“Without this plan, we could see depopulation in parts of Ireland where young people will simply refuse to live, because they can’t access the kind of information flow that allows them to develop their careers and to live normal lives,” said Mr Coveney.
“If you look at where our culture is moving, we will need high-speed information flow into homes, and foreign businesses to be able to make sustainable strategic decisions in the future in terms of how to run a business.”
Mr Coveney compared the arguments against the rollout of broadband to those made against rural electrification in the 20th century.
“This is an investment in the future that is as significant as decisions that were made during rural electrification when some people were making the argument, maybe we can’t afford to do it at that pace and that maybe we should do it in phases,” he said.
“Maybe we should just allow certain communities who have chosen to live in isolated rural parts of the country to face the consequence of that isolation, and we’ll get to them in time when we can afford.
“That is the argument that some people are making, an argument that sounds ridiculous.
“Today, in the context of access to electricity or access to water or other essential public services, and so, broadband is in that category.”
The National Broadband Plan is the Government’s plan to roll out high-speed broadband to the 1.1m people living and working in the nearly 540,000 premises nationally, including 100,000 businesses and farms, and over 600 schools, where commercial operators will not commit to deliver the service.
Fine Gael senator Colm Burke said: “Over 90% of premises in the State will have access to high-speed broadband within four years.
“Quite simply this means rural communities in Cork city and county will not be left behind.
“All of rural Ireland will get the same access to opportunities offered by high-speed broadband as those in urban areas.”