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Investment in Broadband infrastructure essential for economic development - Rabbitte

The Irish Government will work with a range of Telecoms companies to ensure a nationwide roll out of fast Broadband over the next three years. This will be the single most important investment needed to secure future jobs in Ireland Minister Rabbitte told new graduates at a conferring ceremony in UCC this morning. The Communications Minister explained that the process would involve two phases - firstly the telecoms industry needs to be freed up so that the range of companies involved can accelerate their own investment plans and roll out faster internet over all platforms including fibre, cable, wireless and mobile technologies. Secondly, the Minister made it clear that the Government itself must be prepared to invest where the market is likely to fail so as to ensure fast broadband is available in every corner of the country.

Elaborating on the two phases Minister Rabbitte said

"Firstly, during April the Cabinet will consider industry's recommendations on a range of areas where private sector investment needs to be facilitated. My Department has pulled all these ideas together by listening to the companies whose CEOs have participated in a Next Generation Broadband Task Force, which has been meeting since June last year under my chairmanship and which has now completed its work. I have been very encouraged by the investment plans I have heard about,

- from mobile companies who can't wait to take advantage of new mobile spectrum we are about to auction,

- from the main cable player which is rolling out faster speed products in many urban areas and

- from the "traditional' telecoms companies who see great potential for fibre roll-out.

In the Task Force there has been a great deal of straight talking about what needs to be done by the State so as to facilitate speedy private sector investment. We have agreed targets - the numbers of consumers and businesses that the companies aim to meet. In return, we have clarified what can be done to stimulate demand for new services and to remove planning and other barriers that delay the build out of telecoms networks. We have also sought to find a consensus view about the best use of Ireland's spectrum and teased out the role of state companies that have large land holdings and extensive infrastructure in facilitating broadband build out.

I look forward to the publication of the Task Force Report as soon as it has been delivered to Cabinet. It is an action plan in its own right but I think it will provide a good basis for a wider debate with individuals and business consumers about what they, or indeed you, think needs to be done.

We will be looking for a quick reaction though, because the second strand of this initiative is also very important and I will be going back to Government with my own proposals for what the State needs to do this summer. We may as well face facts. There are areas of Ireland where the market will not deliver high speed broadband without State support. It’s a simple logic of geographic distribution. Some of us, some of you here today, no doubt, live and or hope to work in thinly populated rural areas, perhaps in charming but mountainous landscapes. Indeed such locations are frequently highly prized by knowledge workers with greatest needs for connectivity.

The Programme for Government commits to state investment in high speed Broadband roll out and, despite the challenges facing the exchequer, I am confident that we will find the resources necessary to bridge the gap. There will be a relatively small percentage of households that we will need to connect using public money but we must do it.

I am sure that every one of you here today can access some form of always on broadband internet connection. We have spent many millions of tax payers’ euros ensuring that this is the case. However, you may be unhappy about the speeds you are getting. The challenge now for the Government is to ensure that even remote areas can access high speed broadband as quickly as possible. It is a necessity for competitiveness – for the careers every one of you aspires to follow.”

The Minister noted that the Government had recently also agreed to his proposal to invest in super fast broadband to all secondary schools as part of the connectivity work programme.