The Government’s decision to end the National Broadband Scheme further highlights its complete lack of interest in rural Ireland. The scrapping of the programme could see rural broadband users in Kerry forking out an additional €176 per year for a basic broadband service.
The withdrawal of funding for the National Broadband Scheme by the Government is short-sighted and ill-advised and will have serious consequences for households and businesses throughout Kerry. Broadband coverage across the county is of poor quality in many areas, and the removal of this essential service will only serve to make a bad situation worse.
The National Broadband Scheme, which was introduced by the previous Government, provided basic affordable broadband services in rural areas where coverage was poor. The decision to withdraw the funding could result in a 75% price hike for customers. Bills could increase by as much as €176 a year – a huge rise, which many homes may not be able to afford. The massive price increases could see households forced to give up their broadband, a utility which is now considered an essential service.
This move effectively downgrades rural communities and reinforces the two tier economy that this Government has created. Regional and rural Ireland has been effectively abandoned by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition. The Communications Minister Alex White has now decided to pull the plug on secure broadband in the region. Small and Medium businesses here will be at a serious competitive disadvantage compared to companies in the major cities, if broadband services aren’t up to speed.
Shortly before the local elections, the Government announced the National Broadband Plan, yet just months later the scheme which guaranteed basic broadband services at a reasonable price has been suddenly scrapped. This is a deeply cynical move by the new Minister, which will further disenfranchise rural Ireland. The scheme is due to expire on August 25th and I would urge Minister White to reconsider his decision and reinstate this essential scheme.