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Access to high-speed broadband is no longer a luxury it is an economic necessity

Feb 10, 2016

Last night RTE’s Prime Time debated whether there is a urban/rural divide in Ireland and how the various election candidates and prospective government parties propose to address such a divide. Our Vision for 2021 manifesto strongly supports investment in broadband roll out to reduce the digital divide that currently exists between urban and rural areas.

What we expect from the next Government:

  • They must prioritise roll out of the National Broadband plan to achieve target of 100% roll out as soon as possible.
  • We support the goal of the Intervention Plan to include a provision that the company that wins the tender must be capable of supporting higher performance in the future so as to keep pace with consumer demand. Any bidders selected to implement the National Broadband Plan should have a comprehensive plan to ensure the future-proofing of the broadband infrastructure. 
  • Chambers Ireland is of the view that download and upload speeds should take into account the current and future needs of businesses across the country, and the current minimum goals of 30mpbs for downloads and 6mbps for uploads should be increased to reflect these needs. 

Chambers Ireland is not alone in being concerned at the ambition of the National Broadband Plan. The DJEI has also expressed concerns and warned that the minimum download speed of 30Mbps and minimum upload speed of 6Mbps guaranteed by the plan is too low. It is reported that the DJEI has said that companies want download speeds at least three times higher and a quadrupling of upload speeds.

The intervention strategy should be future-proofed and capable of effectively meeting future increases in demand; this requires significantly higher download speeds [in excess of 100Mbps] and also higher, uploads speeds. According to the DJEI some companies’ broadband requirements double in size every 18 months to two years and therefore the technical specifications will have a life span of two and a half to three years after which they will begin to become outdated. It is also reported that feedback from IDA client companies suggests a minimum download of 100Mbps and a minimum upload of 25Mbps is required. We cannot allow for State resources to be spent on Broadband infrastructure which may become redundant and no longer fit for purpose within a few years.

How this will help regional businesses to thrive:

Businesses cannot function in today’s world without broadband access. So many aspects of doing business are affected by internet access, from recruiting employees, to taking payments, and making produce available online.

If growth is to occur at a national level, regionally located SMEs and start-ups must be able to access reliable and high speed broadband. Similarly, there is tremendous potential for increased employment in rural areas through the increase in teleworking and remote working. If the right broadband infrastructure is in place, employment can be created throughout the country. Educational resources are also increasingly managed online and we risk leaving huge portions of the country behind in all of these areas if the digital divide is not addressed as soon as possible. To be on the wrong side of the digital divide means missing out on economic and social opportunities, and has a serious effect on the ability of SMEs in particular to grow, to trade and to carry out simple day to day operations.

As well as fostering indigenous industries, Ireland must be able to compete internationally to attract FDI. Without sufficiently fast and reliable broadband Ireland becomes a much less attractive destination from which to run a business in today’s interconnected, global economy. The next Government must ensure that Ireland’s broadband infrastructure allows us to compete internationally as a destination for FDI, and can also meet Irish business and consumer needs.

To read A Vision for 2021 – a Manifesto for the Future from the Irish Chamber Network see here

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