The Government has given the green light to the €2.97 billion National Broadband Plan, the biggest single investment in Rural Ireland since electrification.
This is tremendous news. The plan will deliver connectivity to every home in the State, to every house, up every boreen, every hill and mountain. No one will be left behind.
This is a game-changer for Rural Ireland. It is something I argued for in the Programme for Government negotiations immediately after I was elected three years ago.
High speed broadband is fundamental to our lives and will transform Rural Ireland, giving a massive boost to small and medium businesses, Smart Farming, education and remote working, as well as to our personal lives.
As chair of the Atlantic Economic Corridor Task Force, which is taking the lead in economic and social development all along the Western Seaboard, broadband is essential to growing our businesses and attracting new investment from other regions and abroad.
The National Broadband Plan is part of a continuing process of balanced development across our country. I have campaigned continuously for this for three years and I am delighted that it is now going ahead.
This is an investment in the future of the State and the future of Rural Ireland. It will be of incalculable benefit for generations to come.
Broadband will enrich people’s lives in a myriad of ways, connectivity to new services and opportunities. It will also provide access for education and learning as well as making available a whole world of communications and entertainment.
The National Broadband plan will be rolled out by a new company, National Broadband Ireland.
It will connect approximately 540,000 homes not currently covered by private commercial providers. This represents 1.1 million people – 23% of the population – including 56,000 farms, 44,000 businesses and around 670 primary schools.
The NBP will commence later this year and will be completed over seven years but the majority of connections will be front-loaded.
During the first year Broadband Connection Points will be made available in 300 locations in towns and communities across Ireland, where people can access a local digital hub for high speed connections.
Once contracts are finalised, along with State Aid permissions and Government oversight processes, national roll out will begin as soon as possible, which is expected to be in the last quarter of this year.
The cost of the National Broadband Plan will have no impact on the National Development Plan.