The purpose of the National Broadband Plan is to ensure that over 1.1 million of our citizens in rural Ireland have the same opportunity to participate in the digital society as citizens living in urban areas. The availability of ubiquitous high speed broadband will bring significant benefits in areas of e-Health, e-Education, smart farming, regional development and tourism. The National Broadband Plan aims to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland has access to high speed broadband. Following rigorous evaluation by my Department, I recently brought a recommendation to Government to confer Preferred Bidder status on Granahan McCourt, the remaining bidder in the NBP procurement process and Government agreed to this at its meeting on 7 May.
The Government decision means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to National Broadband Ireland, subject to the contract close, including the finalisation of financial and legal documents. Deployment of the NBP State Intervention network will commence shortly after that.
The provision of high speed broadband in rural Ireland is of critical importance in areas such as flexible and remote working. Remote or home-working is becoming an increasingly prevalent employment model amongst the overseas firms that continue to invest in Ireland. Increased and improved high speed broadband connectivity in regional and rural Ireland is a key enabler of home and remote working and will help to support such job creation in regional locations. It will also afford employers better access to a wider catchment of skilled workers, even where offices and businesses are located within more urban areas.
The ability to work remotely will be essential to supporting rural communities in realising their full economic potential. This is an area of the economy that is projected to double over the next 5 years. The National Broadband Plan highlights the importance of remote working opportunities to regenerate, revitalise and re-establish rural Ireland as an attractive place to live and work.