Memo to “rural” TDs concerning the National Broadband Plan

IrelandOffline has been campaigning for many years for improved, consistent, value based broadband services for all the citizens of Ireland.

The published statistics on Internet access show that the service providers concentrate on densely populated areas. This is not surprising as the supply of telecommunications services has been privatised. However, there will always be areas where either distance from populated areas and/or low population density militates against service provision.

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) was launched a number of years ago to deal with the issue of support for “disenfranchised” areas with respect to broadband. The published objective was to provide 30Mbits of broadband “speed” as a universal baseline service, as this was considered essential for a fully functioning modern economy

As the NBP has progressed in the planning the timescale has slipped. In addition some important provisos have been included.

Prior to the election it appeared that the implementation timetable foresaw 2020/21 as the date for completion. It is now not clear, despite the “go ahead” if the NBP is still active in its original sense.

The plan foresaw a situation where, in effect, no service supplier will be willing to supply broadband services to some areas. Even with an NBP subsidy, a relatively complex percentage based process is now proposed to measure the level of subsidy for “less than optimal” service. Optimal is not defined and a minimum baseline service is suggested as part of the NBP in the areas affected.

It is inevitable that the areas most likely to be treated as the receivers of the baseline service will be rural areas with low populations. Since there will be no service supplier willing to offer the facilities on a commercial/subsidised basis, it is not clear how even a minimum service can be supplied.

IrelandOffline suggests that TDs with rural constituencies should make it a “red line” issue to ensure that whatever NBP is implemented does not discriminate against rural populations.

It is widely accepted that Internet access with high bandwidth is now considered as a basic right. The negotiations for government should treat this aspiration as a fundamental requirement.

2)Minimum Non-Standard NGA Service’ as defined in the Project Information Memorandum

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