Minister Denis Naughten’s announcement that telecoms service provider Eir is promising to deliver high speed broadband to the majority of homes and business has divided political opinion in Clare. The telecoms provider has said that access to broadband in Clare will increase from 32,000 premises now to 48,000 by the end of next year, including more than 14,000 premises with access speeds of 1,000Mb/s.

The news was welcomed by independent Clare TD Dr. Michael Harty who described the new Eir contract as a significant step towards a full rollout of broadband. Dr Harty commented, “Progress on this issue will never be fast enough for those of us in rural Clare who must live and work with a sub-standard service. I know from ongoing contact that Minister Naughton is doing his level best to accelerate the programme.”

Dr Harty believes that high speed broadband is as important today as rural electrification was in the 1950s. He said rural independent TDs will continue to apply pressure on Government, and particularly Minister Naughton, to act swiftly on the rollout of high speed broadband. According to Dr Harty, “The provision of effective rural broadband was central to my campaign in last year’s general election, together with maintaining our post office network. Both services are vitally important to rural and regional development. Now is the time to deliver on these promises which were negotiated in the Programme for a Partnership Government.”.

However Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on Communications, Timmy Dooley, has claimed that the National Broadband Plan will suffer delays because of the clumsy approach taken to it by the Minister. “Minister Naughten has now been in office for 11 months. Despite his many protestations since then, he has failed to speed up the roll out and delivery of high speed broadband to rural Ireland. What’s now playing out in front of us is developing into a full scale farce, with communities going in, only to be taken out less than a year later.

“Last July, the National Broadband Plan had its number of eligible households increased by 170,000. We now see the Minister removing 300,000 and adding a further 85,000 leaving a net reduction in 215,000. The story of the National Broadband Plan under Fine Gael and quasi Fine Gael Ministers has been announcement after announcement, with no clear visibility on when roll out will begin. Communities up and down the country simply don’t believe what the Government is saying about its broadband plans because every commitment to date has been broken.

“The decision to allow Eir to provide 300,000 households with broadband on a commercial basis has been on the cards since 2015. If this is a positive development, why has the Minister taken so long to agree to it, and announce it? We must be careful that this change does not slow down the rollout of broadband to those remaining under the NBP.”

In conclusion he stated, “The Minister’s honeymoon period has long since passed. Communities and businesses are furious that they are still left waiting for high quality broadband six years after the NBP was first announced.”