Irish government earmarks €500m for rural broadband improvements

Communications minister announces plan for fibre powered broadband network

David Baker
by David Baker on 26th April, 2014

More than one million Irish homes and businesses will be connected to a new fibre-powered broadband network after the government approved investment worth up to €500 million.

The planned high speed broadband network will deliver rural broadband services to those previously unable to enjoy superfast services.

Between €355m and €512m is being set aside by the government for the broadband infrastructure project, which is set to provide more than 1,000 towns and villages with high speed broadband for the first time.

Pat Rabbitte, Minister for Communications, revealed that the plans will be a joint venture between ESB and Vodafone.

ESB’s existing infrastructure network will provide high speed broadband to 450,000 homes in areas where such speeds are currently unattainable.

Mr Rabbitte revealed that the cabinet had now given the all clear for the project to get underway, despite the level of investment being higher than in the original National Broadband Plan.

He said that the new investment was required to ensure that Ireland complied with EU guidelines, while also ensuring that significant measures were in place for the future.

“Fibre is the Rolls-Royce of connectivity and this investment will provide the opportunity for parts of rural Ireland to anticipate they will have this access,” said Mr Rabbitte.

He went on to describe the rollout of broadband services as being similar to electrification schemes that existed in the 1960s.

“Urban Ireland has a good a level of connectivity as anywhere in Europe but there are many parts of rural Ireland where there is only a basic service and that is not acceptable,” Mr Rabbitte explained.

“People in rural areas are as entitled to broadband as anyone else.”

A detailed mapping process of the areas not covered by adequate services is already underway, while an implementation strategy will be published later this year.

The private sector is already piling money into Irish infrastructure, with eircom currently rolling out a €400m fibre-powered broadband scheme set to offer speeds of 100Mbps.

Currently their service is available in 800,000 homes across Ireland, although that is set to increase to 1.4m by 2016.

Meanwhile, UPC has spent more than €500m upgrading their cable network to provide 700,000 homes and businesses access to broadband with speeds of up to 500Mbps.

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