THE Government has not put a timeline on when over 75,000 Cork businesses and homes can expect to be connected to high-speed broadband.
The contract for the National Broadband Plan (NBP) is close to being finalised and Cork will receive an investment of €290m to provide fibre broadband to 74,820 homes in the Intervention Area - a mapped area of rural Ireland where high-speed broadband is currently not commercially available which half a million premises.
This includes areas in Cork such as Kilbarry, Dromore and Currabeha – as well as nine islands off West Cork including Bere Island, Sherkin, Dursey and Cape Clear and large swathes of mid and north Cork.
Speaking in East Cork at the Fine Gael think-in ahead of the return of the Dáil this week, Communications Minister Richard Bruton said he cannot allow any proposals from the Oireachtas Committee on Communications on delivering high-speed connections to halt the tender process for the NBP contract but would not say when work on infrastructure will begin.
“We don’t envisage any initiative that would require restarting the tender process.
“Some of the proposals being made would involve completely restarting the process and add five years delay to the project and that simply could not be countenanced.
“Until we sign a contract, the State doesn’t commit any money and we won’t see a start.
“We’re determined to deliver this and will do so as quickly as possible.”
However, Mr Bruton said one of the proposals being considered is that newly-built homes would have to supplement the cost of installations.
“One of the suggestions [that came from the committee] is that as new houses are developed within the Intervention Area that it [could] be built into the planning permission and development charges process and that houses would pay for some of the installation and it wouldn’t fall back to the State to provide new connections. That sort of thing is very practical,” he added.
Mr Bruton stated that Brexit should not be a factor in the Government’s commitment to homes and businesses that do not have high-speed internet.
“The commitment to broadband is essential whether it is a soft Brexit.
“Many would argue that if it is a hard Brexit the inclusion of rural Ireland in the technology that can grow businesses is even more important.
“We will be signing the Broadband contract over the coming weeks.
“Rural Ireland has been waiting too long to access what is now an essential service. We need to start rolling out future-proofed, high-speed broadband to the 1.1m people in rural Ireland who need it as soon as possible.”