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National Broadband Plan needs to be sorted Super Fast

Link Blog | August 1, 2018

National Broadband Plan needs to be sorted Super Fast

This column frequently discusses the importance of a good transport infrastructure for job creation and the economy as a whole, however having an effective communications infrastructure is equally, if not more important to Ireland in terms of our ability to do business at home and compete with others abroad. Think of how far communications infrastructure has come in the last decade or so and how it has impacted on the way business is done. It’s 11 years since the first iPhone was released to the market. Things are moving quickly and the ability to keep abreast of changes is very important to businesses and the country as a whole if we want to attract trade and remain competitive.

It isn’t encouraging to read that Ireland ranked behind 25 European countries in terms of broadband speeds according to a recent study by M-Lab. Further bad news emerged last week when a member of the consortium with the only bid to implement the National Broadband Plan (NBP) withdrew. While that decision may work out for the best in the long term, (value for money is hardly assured when there is just one bidder for a large infrastructure project), it raises a high level of uncertainty that the only strategy to increase broadband coverage and broadband speeds across the country will be implemented any time soon.

Although it has become integral to business, there is a dearth of broadband coverage in many areas of the country. While “broadband blackspots” in rural areas are well reported, even the big cities aren’t served properly in terms of access to high speed broadband. Dublin City and suburbs have 80% coverage while Limerick City and Suburbs have only 71% broadband coverage. So what does all of this really mean and why does it matter? In brief, it means companies don’t have an online shopfront to attract clients and can’t trade online with customers in Ireland and abroad (those Irish customers will look to sites in the UK and Europe to spend their money). It means that small businesses and farmers in rural areas may have to travel to the nearest town to lodge forms, that students may not have access to online learning resources, that foreign investment is discouraged (who wants to set up a business if you can’t be sure your e-mail will reach its destination!) and it means problems for tourists who want strong Wi-Fi speeds in their hotel. Before its full implementation was thrown into doubt last week, the NBP was due to bring high speed broadband to 540,000 houses and businesses in the country by 2020. The cost to the state would have been between €1-1.5bn. This is absolute peanuts in terms of the benefits the country will reap from increased productivity and increased opportunities to do business, so it’s imperative that immediate steps are taken to ensure the plan gets back on track.

It’s fully understandable that a small business wouldn’t want to throw money away on a website when the internet connection to its’ premises and the surrounding areas is sub par, but if the NBP is effectively implemented, then SMEs need to move fast and get connected. Today’s customers want to trade with ease and efficiency without wasting hours of their time. By increasing broadband coverage, bettering our digital infrastructure and getting Irish businesses online  we will increase trade, create jobs, attract investment, and ensure Ireland’s competitiveness into the future. Like the broadband we want, we should get it all done Super Fast.

Cormac Spencer

Senior Consultant

Link Personnel Services

01 845 6312

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