It will be very hard to follow the Deputy because I cannot outdo him in the course of this debate in what the Minister might do to be canonised. I concur with the sentiments expressed on the importance of this infrastructure in the modern era. I compliment the Minister on bringing the Bill before the House. It is a recognition of the need to ensure there is long-term planning of vital infrastructure for the foreseeable future. One of the problems that has bedevilled our society since the foundation of the State relates to our inability, for some unknown reason, to plan sufficiently ahead. We tear our hair out, beat our breasts, bemoan emigration and ask ourselves questions as to why people emigrate when there is an economic downturn, but we should recognise that unless we have the basic infrastructure now required for the future, this will become a very difficult place in which to provide jobs and employment opportunities for a new and emerging generation. We can live in the past, pretend we are all right and say to ourselves we do not need any of these things when, in fact, we do. If we do not have them and sufficient investment in technology, we will not be in the marketplace.
It was only 15 years ago when a number of member states of the European Union did not have a basic mobile phone service, but now they have a better service than we do. That is one of the issues that determine the reasons people invest here, particularly where they invest. If there is one thing that is basic to industry and economic expansion, it is communications. I recall learning at a conference held in Brussels many years ago of the huge benefits fibre optics would bring, but, for some unknown reason, we never got on the train. There are many places in this country where one has to move around one's own home to get a better mobile phone or broadband signal. I said recently, rather jocosely but intentionally, that some broadband speeds could be compared to waiting for a kettle to boil. It is appalling that we failed to recognise this necessity in times past. We failed to plan ahead and because we failed to do so we now have an emergency.
It is hugely important that the Minister has grasped this nettle and decided to deal with the issue in a way that is consistent with best policy. We will avail of an existing service and the assistance of a major service provider in the country. In that regard, those who know me well know that I am not and never have been a great supporter of removing basic utility services from the public sector. They have done a great job in service delivery. I compliment the ESB on the work it has done in the past. Even during the recent emergencies throughout the country its workforce were out day and night in appalling conditions to try to restore services against the odds. They have a tremendous record to such an extent that they have assisted in other jurisdictions on numerous occasions. A tribute should be paid to them for being ready, willing and able to provide services, sometimes at great risk to themselves, in the most atrocious of conditions.
The potential in utilising the ESB as an anchor in the provision of this service is immense and I hope there will not be too long a wait before it gets off the ground. As Deputy Michael Healy-Rae said, there are countless parts of the country that urgently need a reasonable broadband service. There is not much point in saying people will have it in ten years time, as opportunities pass. We cannot wait for things to happen; we have to make them happen. The way to do this is to show encouragement by providing the basic infrastructure required. Apropos the parliamentary questions we have just finished, great emphasis was placed on the need for modern technology and modern communications systems and the numerous other options that open up in areas that have access to such services.
The provision of telecommunications services is not as easy as it is in smaller countries or bigger cities. There are countries smaller than this one, despite what some might think. In bigger cities it should be possible to provide a good service. We are now competing in a global economy and those involved in industry here have to complete with everybody else worldwide. The world is now a much smaller place. There are people in Canada, the Middle East, Australia, South Africa and elsewhere in the world who are all competing for the same product. We now recognise that exports are our business. We can export from the food, technology and pharmaceutical sectors to a huge extent. In that context, it is obvious that we require top-mark telecommunications, particularly broadband services, which are of huge benefit to industry, in medicine, hospitals, elsewhere in the health service and education.
High-speed broadband is available almost everywhere, except here. The difference between that and a top-of-the-mark service is chalk and cheese. Those who wish to invest will go for the best place and those who wish to export go for the best place. Those who wish to receive communications on a global basis may achieve this if they happen to live in a good broadband area. Digressing for a moment, I have often raised questions in the House about broadband and mobile telephony, as have other Members. In my house, if I move around I get different quality reception and sometimes I get none if I move too fast or if I do not move fast enough. With our scale of hope and ambition over the past number of years, and having come through a boom that led to a bust, it is crazy that we are back with the rabbit ears to get the best reception. That used to be the way with the old black-and-white television when people used to put a coat hanger on top of it to improve reception. It is of utmost importance that we achieve the best quality of service in this area in the shortest possible time. I am not blaming the Minister because what has stymied mobile telephony was people's serious concerns about how masts were damaging to health. There were concerns, but other countries have the same system and have embraced it, and they are progressing as a result. If we do not do that in this country we will suffer as a result of our leprechaunism.
We need ongoing development in mobile telecommunications because we are in a changing situation and what suffices today may not be sufficient tomorrow. It is hugely important to recognise the need to invest in this area. From time to time I listen to various commentators talking about matters, and I heard someone announce that we do not need infrastructure and that we have enough. How foolish. If we continue with that attitude, in 100 years we will still have the same problems and we will be exporting our population. We will not have sufficient to meet our needs and we will not be able to have a long-term economic plan because we will not have the basic infrastructure.
The purpose of the Bill is to allow a major company such as the ESB to engage, now or in the future, in the installation and operation of electronic communications networks and services, either alone or in conjunction with another company. The benefit of the ESB is that it has the expertise. It has worldwide renown and has proved the point many times. It provides a very effective and efficient service, although people carp about the cost and the alleged preferential wage structures. The ESB provides a service in all conditions and circumstances.
The enabling legislation is very much in the spirit of the Government's national broadband plan. It will provide high-speed, modern broadband services throughout the country without exception. Deputy Healy-Rae mentioned various spots throughout the country that suffer deficiencies in that area, as they always have done. That should not be the case. Modern technology should enable us to bring the most modern telecommunications technology to all areas of the country at the same time. Things have moved on. We can communicate with the moon and with people in space. What prevents us from doing the simple things we can do at home, which are of huge benefit to the economy?
It is not before time that the legislation comes before the House. The Minister made reference to the "opportunity to significantly enhance the quality and availability of modern, resilient and future-proofed broadband infrastructure through the use of the ESB's extensive electricity networks, potentially extending the reach of fibre to the home and further enhancing broadband connectivity in Ireland". The Minister rightly indicates the importance of this step. If this had happened ten years ago, it would not have been too early. It would have been hugely beneficial in the drive towards economic recovery for which we now have responsibility. The country, the people and the Government are responding to it. It is no harm to recognise the huge deficiency and the fact that, if it had been addressed some time ago, we might not have had the difficulties we had during the downturn. It might even have been possible to be more competitive at an earlier stage and to prevent the downturn.
I do not want to digress into other areas, but we need to carry out assessments from time to time to ascertain the areas in which we are most deficient and most likely to be challenged in the future, which may be mobile telephony, broadband, telecommunications or transport. Not so many years ago, people were tying themselves to trees to prevent roads from being built. The roads are there but if we did not have them we would be further back down the ladder in terms of competitiveness. All of these things add up. The provisions in respect of telecommunications are such that everyone recognises they will play a huge role in the future of our economy and the global economy. Some countries are more aggressive and competitive in the area than others and they will gain an advantage. The Minister is fully aware of this and supports the proposal. We need to identify each sector and element in the communications sector where deficiency exists and we need to identify areas of the country with specific deficiencies. We need to address this and invest in them now. Most of all, we need to be able to say to ourselves that we have a modern telecommunications service that is efficient and fast and available to everyone and all sectors. That will also have the benefit of providing a capability in areas that may be deficient in other infrastructural respects. In today's world, not everyone has to work in the workplace all the time. People can work from home or in smaller communities but only if they have the proper telecommunications.
We have all responded to people in our constituencies complaining about an inability to access an adequate broadband service. Some people want to use a home computer but the complaint also comes from small businesses. They find themselves at a disadvantage, which is hugely frustrating. The speed of broadband is painfully slow and frustrating. People have sent us e-mails, texts and messages to tell us about it. It is hugely frustrating to watch the band moving along the line, stopping and breaking down in the middle of a transmission. I have had to wait a couple of hours to get an e-mail.
We have a serious deficit in the area.
The next generation broadband task force report, which was published in 2011, identified the various provisions required to progress to meet future market demands. The Minister referenced the various towns, villages and communities throughout the country which may not be able to gain access to investment. The ESB has a network that reaches every part of the country, with one or two notable exceptions that we hear of from time to time. Generally speaking, it goes everywhere, meaning the company is in an ideal position to be able to carry alongside the cabling a system that will facilitate this piece of technology.
As the Minister has indicated, the national broadband plan recognised that a number of commercial and non-commercial State bodies are already leveraging their existing assets to provide infrastructure and services to the telecommunications market. These assets continue to play an important role in improving broadband services and the plan commits to exploiting any further opportunities that arise with a view to accelerating the roll-out of high-speed broadband.
I will conclude on that thought. Accelerating the rate of roll-out for high-speed broadband is crucial to our future existence. If we do not have that element of communication at our fingertips, we will lose out on investment, global communication and international stature. This country has been beset by emigration over the years, so it would be nice if we could get a good quality of service to communicate with emigrants, of whom there are very many. I do not wish for us to have to live with the prospect of constant emigration and the introduction of a proper telecommunications system could be the way forward in ensuring adequate job opportunities at home. Instead of having young people going to Australia, Canada or New York, they should be able to do the same job here in their own communities. They need access to a proper communication system in order to do so.