As the Deputy will be aware, on 7th May and following a detailed tendering process, the Government announced its intention to award the contract to a preferred bidder for the roll out of high speed broadband in areas not covered on a commercial basis.
Broadband connectivity is vital to supporting all of our future living standards and this project will have a transformative effect on rural Ireland, encompassing 540,000 premises and 1.1 million people.
Every policy area that supports our society and our economy will require effective broadband connectivity in the future – this includes areas such as education, health, transport, farming, and employment.
The NBP will facilitate a structural shift in how people live and work in rural Ireland. The availability of high-speed broadband will enable their full participation in the digital economy and in society more generally.
For example, the rapid deployment of high speed broadband is critically important for farm and food businesses in rural areas. On-line application for the Basic Payment Scheme is mandatory under EU law since 2018.
Businesses will be able to expand their markets by trading online, and a range of citizen-focused initiatives can be rolled-out equally across the country, improving health, safety and security, and services for isolated, disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.
Improved broadband connectivity will also help to support further job creation through remote working in regional locations. It will enable employers to access a wider group of skilled on-line workers who might not otherwise be available to them.
It will also help to revitalise and re-establish rural Ireland as an attractive place to live and work.
The Government has a responsibility to increase the economic prospects for those living in rural areas. The National Broadband Plan will contribute significantly to this objective by closing the gap between the level of broadband service available in urban centres and rural areas.