Michael Fitzmaurice, Independent TD, shares his views on the National Broadband Plan.
The funeral pace with which the National Broadband Plan is being delivered means we are now in real danger of it being utterly dated before it is even delivered.
Broadband was supposed to be the big bang to deliver modernity to rural Ireland. It is supposed to be the equivalent of rural electrification.
It is a matter of concern, though, that Ireland’s incapacity to implement policy means broadband is in danger of becoming the technological variant of the National Children’s hospital.
Such is the decline in public faith; like water and other rural infrastructure, the people are securing it privately.
National Broadband Ireland (NBI) has serious questions to answer on how it will live up to its pledge to roll out a high-speed and future-proofed broadband network within the Intervention Area for 1.1 million people living and working in the over 554,000 premises.
The plan’s economic importance is indicated by pledges to connect almost 100,000 businesses and farms along with some 679 schools.
For schools, especially, it is appalling that they are not already digitally connected.
It is the digital equivalent of being educated without pens and pencils.
The minister claims he has been advised that build work is underway, demonstrating the project is reaching scale. The reality on the ground is not so shiny.
The missing of the 60,000 target for last year, already down from 115,000, signifies all is not well.
Confidence in the Broadband plan is becoming increasingly equivocal amongst the public. The view is growing that if they had been put in charge of electrification, half of rural Ireland would be using candles.
The minister needs to haul the NBI Board into imprint on it the need for delivery. Broadband, it was promised, would be rural Ireland’s key to the world.
Instead, rural Ireland is being left as separated from the world as Robinson Crusoe on his Island.
NBI can no longer operate under the cloak of coronavirus when it comes to its slow uptake.
As people are voting with their feet and walking away from this invisible service, the minister must move to restore confidence to the scheme by imposing some form of accountability and effectual target setting on National Broadband Ireland.