School broadband should be made available to local communities – Connaughton

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While high-speed broadband will be made available to all secondary schools in Ireland by September, this will not result in the towns involved having access to this broadband, a fact criticised this week by Paul Connaughton T.D.

The East Galway Deputy raised the issue on a number of occasions in recent weeks, both at the Public Accounts Committee and directly with the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte T.D.

“I welcome the fact that high-speed broadband is being made available to every school by September of this year, but if it’s arriving into a town, it should be made available to the whole town. I raised this issue recently with the Secretary General of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Mr. Aidan Dunning, when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee. He confirmed that the broadband will not be available to the towns involved. I believe that this is regrettable and is also a missed opportunity as the availability of high-speed high-quality broadband would be very welcome in towns across East Galway.”

In a recent reply to Deputy Connaughton on the matter, Minister Rabbitte said, “The procurement of the connection necessary to deliver the high-speed broadband for each school is proceeding under an existing Framework Agreement as a commercial service. Given the commercial nature of the connection, the broadband will only be available to each individual school.

“The provision of access to these connections for the wider community would not be in line with the commercial agreements that have been entered into and there would also be a number of technical, financial and legal impediments to providing wider community access under this programme.

“The Government accepts that the widespread availability of high speed broadband is a key requirement in delivering future economic and social development. With basic broadband services now widely available across Ireland, the challenge is to accelerate the roll out of high speed services,” said the Minister.
Broadband is a prerequisite for businesses in the current climate, according to Deputy Connaughton. “The Next Generation Broadband Taskforce recently reported that by 2015, only half of the country will have access to high-speed broadband, with rural areas forming the vast majority of this segment. Someone considering starting a business, be it in Glenamaddy or Headford, needs access to broadband, otherwise the business playing field is unequal.”

“This is an issue I will continue to push at every opportunity with the Minister because it is vital to the economic life of rural areas all across Ireland,” concluded Deputy Connaughton.