WDC says National Broadband Scheme will help facilitate economic development in the rural Western Region

Switchover to digital TV will provide further opportunities

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has welcomed the Government’s National Broadband Scheme which will see broadband in all parts of the Western Region by September 2010.

“Broadband brings considerable benefits to rural businesses and communities so this is a positive announcement. People living in rural areas will gain access to online services, and broadband will also mean that more people can run businesses from home and telework. Teleworking, especially in times of economic downturn, can be an attractive option for both business owners and their employees. It can lessen overhead and energy costs for employers and reduce travel costs for employees. It can also benefit the environment with fewer car journeys lowering carbon emissions,” said Dr Patricia O’Hara, Policy Manager at the WDC.

The WDC, which has played a strong role in making the case for broadband in rural areas, stresses that broadband can support the viability and competiveness of existing jobs and remove a major barrier to attracting new investment and jobs to rural areas. “It is essential to positioning Ireland in the knowledge or smart economy,” Dr. O’Hara added.

“Nationally, 39% of people live in rural areas but the figure for the Western Region is much higher at 68%. Up to now the Region has been badly served with less than 20% of households with a broadband connection, so the announcement is particularly significant for the west,” she added.

“Since 2000, the WDC has emphasised the importance of broadband so the announcement is definitely a step in the right direction for the rural economy. Rural enterprises can now target international markets and compete with businesses in urban areas that, up to now, have had a distinct competitive advantage. We would, however, have some concerns at the speeds being

offered and we would stress that they must be adequate for business needs, and for next generation networks such as high definition TV and video,” Dr. O’Hara said. She explained that the full switchover from analogue to digital TV, planned for 2012, could provide a real opportunity to address problems with speeds and quality of service.

“The switch to digital TV will mean that 2530% of the radio spectrum capacity in the UHF broadcast band will be freed up. This could potentially be available to provide quality broadband in rural areas. The WDC believes that the switchover is an unprecedented opportunity to bridge the ‘spatial digital divide’ and that high speed rural broadband could be a key positive outcome of the switchover. We were pleased to see reference to this in the Government’s recent economic renewal document Building Ireland’s Smart Economy,” Dr. O’Hara concluded.

Ends

For further information please contact:

Dr Pat O’Hara, Policy Manager, WDC 087 686 2772
or Angela Bane, Bane Mullarkey, 087 286 5217