Laois TD, Brian Stanley, has described the Government’s Broadband deal as the ‘worst of all options’ following the announcement that the contract is to be signed today.
The plan, which Minister Michael Ring insists: “will bring high-speed internet connectivity to 1.1 million people, 537,596 premises, 56,000 farms, 44,000 businesses and 695 schools.”
However, the Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Rural Affairs said: “it was essential that high speed broadband is delivered to rural Ireland but that the service must remain in public ownership and that the ESB should have been mandated to roll it out.”
Deputy Stanley said: “People in the Midlands badly need access to high speed broadband, but this deal signed by Fine Gael represents the worst possible option.
“It is a deal which will see the taxpayer handover €3 billion to a private developer and the public won’t even own the infrastructure at the end of the process.
“In fact, the private developer will own and control the entire company,” he added.
The Sinn Féin TD continued: “Rural Ireland has been waiting for seven years and we’re now told by Fine Gael that it will be at least seven further years until the full roll out is complete.
“And from our own research we believe that the process will take even longer than seven years due to the model which they have chosen.
The Sinn Féin representative believes: “the ESB should be mandated to deliver broadband to the remaining homes within the intervention areas, which are not going to be serviced by a private company.
“It is vital that we ensure that as much of the Intervention area as possible remains in public ownership.
Meanwhile, Minister Ring is backing the plan and insists this plan is a “game-changer for rural Ireland.”
He said: “The roll out of the National Broadband Plan will support the Project Ireland 2040 objective of achieving Strengthened Rural Economies and Communities.
“It will break the urban-rural divide and underscore the inter-dependence of rural and urban areas in creating Ireland’s future.
“As Minister for Rural and Community Development, I know that access to high-speed broadband will have a powerful, transformative effect on the lives of people and communities in rural areas.
“It will enable the diversification of rural economies and will provide businesses with opportunities to create new jobs and to access new markets.”
In contrast, Deputy Stanley said: “We cannot allow another utility to be monopolised by private corporations. Especially such an important utility as broadband.
“This is a bad deal for rural Ireland and the taxpayer.”