Broadband for all makes the regions more attractive for business and living

Ireland’s National Broadband Scheme brings affordable, quality broadband to targeted regional areas and means that broadband services are now available in all parts of Ireland.

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The National Broadband Scheme has brought broadband services to all parts of Ireland The National Broadband Scheme has brought broadband services to all parts of Ireland

Before this scheme was implemented, broadband was not accessible to approximately 10 % of Ireland’s population with those affected mostly located outside of towns and cities. The combination of private investment and State interventions in broadband provision, such as this scheme, has succeeded in ensuring that all areas of Ireland have access to affordable, quality broadband which is in line with national and EU policy on the matter.

The scheme has brought a broadband service to 1 028 electoral divisions where previously coverage was deemed to be insufficient. Ireland has now met the target for basic broadband availability two years ahead of the target date set by the EU as part of its Digital Agenda.

Private sector involvement

As it is not always profitable for the private sector to operate in all areas, a contract was signed with the broadband internet provider ‘3’ (a Hutchison Whampoa company) after a competitive tendering process. The contract was for the establishment of the infrastructure and the provision, where requested, of specified broadband services to retail and wholesale end users, in certain designated electoral divisions.

The initial service provided a minimum download speed – subject to contention – of 1.2 mbps with upgrades (to 1.6 mbps in 2010 and then 2.3 mbps in 2012), added throughout the scheme period at no extra cost to consumers. This is, as already stated, the minimum and consumers located closer to the serving site will have higher download speeds which, with the 2012 upgrade, will enable certain consumers to achieve download speeds of up to 10.4 mbps, subject to contention. The monthly data cap was initially set at 15 GB which increased to 25 GB and then 40 GB with the respective upgrades. The roll-out of the service took twenty-two months and was completed in October 2010.

Levelling the playing field

This scheme, offering a basic, affordable, scalable product, has had a significant impact on balancing out regional development. This has a positive effect on the rural economy. The two regions involved in this have become more attractive and competitive destinations for investment as a result of this scheme.

More than 170 jobs were involved in the implementation of the scheme to say nothing of the many jobs protected or created indirectly by broadband roll out. Furthermore, as homes, schools etc. also have access to broadband now, the quality of life has been improved for citizens in these regions.

This of course will positively affect Ireland’s score in other indicators of the Digital Agenda such as doing online banking, taking a course online, seeking health information, using eGovernment services etc. The cost of broadband provision is competitive for consumers at approximately EUR 20 per month.

Mr. Gerry Finn, Director of the Border, Midland and Western Regional Assembly stated that the scheme ensures “that everyone, irrespective of where they are, will have access to quality, competitively priced broadband services”. In Ireland, regular use of the internet is now higher than the EU average.

Total and EU funding

The project “National Broadband Scheme” had a total public contribution of EUR 79 800 000, of which some EUR 36 000 000 was contributed by the EU’s European Regional Development Fund for the 2007 to 2013 programming period. The project was funded through the “Border, Midland and Western (BMW)” and “Southern and Eastern (S&E)” Regional Operational Programmes 2007-13.

Draft date