28th September 2015
A European Commission 'Going Local' consultation meeting today (Monday) saw EU Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu, and EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Affairs Phil Hogan, consult with Irish rural community groups, farming organisations, and business development agencies about rural broadband and the development of Ireland's digital strategy.
The meeting, which was chaired by Minister for Communications Alex White, TD, took place in the Digital Hub in Dublin on the eve of publication of the Government's Capital Programme, which will include funding for the early years of the State's direct intervention in the provision of high-speed broadband access under the National Broadband Plan.
Minister for Rural Affairs Ann Phelan also participated, along with organisations including the IDA, the IFA, the Ulster Farmers' Union, The Wheel, Irish Rural Link, the Irish Hotels Federation, LEADER, the Western Development Union, Muintir Na Tíre, Teagasc, and representatives of Regional Assemblies.
'Going Local' is a European Commission programme that gives participants the opportunity to have a say in the development of the European Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy. It aims to raise awareness of the Digital Agenda for Europe.
Opening the meeting, Minister White said the Government's National Broadband Plan was on course to deliver high-speed broadband access to every home, school and business in Ireland by 2020. "This is our most important public investment in rural Ireland. We have created the conditions where the commercial sector is bringing high-speed broadband to many more towns in rural Ireland. The Government's direct intervention will then deliver connectivity to all our citizens, including 80,000 farms and 63,000 small businesses. The physical build of the network is on course to start next year and will be completed in 2020, with 85% of Irish premises getting high-speed broadband access by 2018.
"When this Government came into office in 2011, just 300,000 homes in Ireland had access to high speed broadband. Today, that figure has risen to 1.3 million following Government initiatives to stimulate commercial investment. By the end of 2016, commercial providers will be delivering high-speed broadband to 1.6 million addresses. The Government will intervene directly to bring high-speed broadband to the rest."
Commissioner Corina Cretu said: "I am pleased to see that the National Broadband Plan and the National Digital Strategy are firmly in place. They show that Ireland has the right plans in place to exploit the economic and social benefits once high speed broadband infrastructure is in place across the country. The European Regional Development Fund is committed to playing its role in achieving a step change in connectivity in rural areas."
Commissioner Phil Hogan said: "Rural connectivity will open up the global economy to local areas, while providing local areas with a direct link into the modern, globalised world. Achieving these online connections will require us to establish strong offline connections, between policymakers, service providers, rural communities and financial institutions."