WDC welcomes National Broadband Plan but more is needed to ensure that areas beyond the cities are well served.
In a new report, Connecting the West: Next Generation Broadband in the Western Region, the Western Development Commission highlights the need for further investment in broadband to support enterprise and jobs growth across the Western Region.
The report examines the likely rollout of next generation broadband services and makes recommendations to ensure next generation access for all areas and better value for money for state investment in infrastructure.
Mr. Ian Brannigan (acting CEO) notes “that many rural areas are barely able to access a service, let alone avail of a high speed service now available to their city counterparts. The evidence from across the Region presented in this report indicates that in many areas broadband services lag those that are available elsewhere in the country, for example, the Western Region accounts for 18% of the households in Ireland but accounts for 28% of applicants to the Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS) highlighting the weaker broadband services there”.
The WDC report notes that the value of next generation broadband infrastructure is that it can make geographic distance to customers far less relevant and provides easy access to worldwide markets. “This can be a real benefit to promoting regional and rural job growth, but only if the infrastructure and services are there”, noted Mr. Brannigan.
The report highlights the impact of poor quality broadband services on businesses in the Western Region showing how some small businesses are frustrated by poor broadband service levels which range from a lack of service and insufficient speeds to higher prices compared to competitors. Despite this many of these businesses are trying to expand and grow jobs in the smart economy.
The recently published National Broadband Plan Delivering a Connected Society sets out targets for next generation broadband delivery, but with little detail on how it is to be delivered. The WDC report argues that next generation broadband, which has been compared to electrification, will need additional State investment to ensure it is available in all regional and rural areas.
The report’s author, Ms. Frost notes that “it is important to realise the increasing range of applications and industries which will require next generation access, such as online education and eHealth. This will mean a growth in bandwidth requirements and highlights the need for investment in long term future proofed infrastructure”.
“The WDC is concerned that a three speed next generation Ireland will emerge and more regional and rural areas may not be able to access the same level of services as in the cities”, she added.
The WDC argues that though it may require additional investment, fibre to the home or kerb should be the preferred technology for towns with a population of 1,500 or more. This will ensure the best return to the State and national economy over the medium to long term.
Ms. Frost added, “It would be preferable to invest in long term legacy infrastructure than focusing only on short term service delivery. The case for more extensive rollout of fibre is likely to be greater if a longer term view is taken and the full range of benefits are taken into account. Returns on investment will include job creation and enterprise development as well as supporting the growth of all economic sectors, but particularly the information technology, computing, software and media sectors”.
For further information please contact:
Deirdre Frost (086 605 3317) Policy Analyst, Western Development Commission
Notes to editors on the Western Development Commission (WDC)
The WDC is the statutory body promoting economic and social development in counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare.
The WDC’s strategic goals are:
• Contribute to balanced regional development by ensuring that the Western Region maximises its full potential for economic and social development.
• Promote the benefits of living, working and doing business in the Western Region.
• Support the sustainable economic and social development of the rural economy.
• Provide risk capital to SMEs and social enterprises.
www.wdc.ie and www.lookwest.ie