Despite the recent publication of the Report of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce, communities in Kildare will still have to wait until 2023 at the earliest to access high quality broadband services. This is simply not good enough from the Government.
The report suggests a number of initiatives which I believe are window dressing. There is no need to undergo another mapping exercise to see where there are mobile broadband blackspots. The mobile phone operators know exactly where coverage is poor. In my own constituency I have worked on improving high speed broadband services in North West Kildare, Kill and Eadestown. Meeting with Eir, Imagine and other providers I have informed them of these blackspots and will continue to bring these to their attention.
As my parties spokesperson on Science, Technology, and Innovation I have consistently lobbied broadband providers to improve their services in Kildare. Meeting with Minister Denis Naughten TD I raised my broadband concerns directly with the Minister and Government officals for our county. This is an unwelcome delay for what is a vital service for nearly every household in the county.
Instead of mapping exercises, the Department needs to work with the operators to urgently rectify these blackspots. In Kildare North we have a number of black spots which detrimentally affect local businesses and clubs.
Fundamentally, a change in outlook is required from the Government and the operators. The Minister must set out a vision for how Ireland becomes a mobile-island. Focusing on population rather than land-mass coverage is too limited, and ignores large parts of the country.
“What people in many communities will be asking when they read this report is: when will my house get access to decent, high speed broadband and mobile coverage?
Unfortunately, the answer is the same as it was before this report was published: 2023 at the earliest for fixed high speed broadband in the home, despite what Government or other officals might say to sugar coat this report.
However, the problem of poor coverage is bigger than just the home. People travel from their home, to school, to their place of work and, in many parts of the country, they lose signal for no apparent reason. This must be urgently addressed, and Minister Naughten must ensure that the mobile operators deliver progress sooner rather than later.
Unless Minister Naughten can ensure a speedier roll out of the National Broadband Plan; quicker than what has been promised to date, then this report will be of any value to business and home owners alike.
Full roll out of the NBP was supposed to be completed by 2015. That deadline has come and gone, and delay after delay has ensured that public confidence in the plan is at an incredibly low level.
I am deeply concerned that when the NBP is eventually rolled out across the country, it will be out of date. The minimum levels of download speeds, as prescribed in the tender documents, would barely pass the broadband test in the USA of 25 mbps in 2016, let alone the potential improved standards of 2023.
The Minister must ensure that the remainder of the NBP is flexible enough to ensure that developments in information technology can be introduced as the infrastructure is rolled out. This must be a priority for the Government and I will continue to apply pressure at a national and local level.