Is Rural Ireland doomed to lag behind urban centres of the country?
In 2012 the government launched a National Broadband Plan to bring high speed internet services to all businesses and households in Ireland. The NBP defines high speed broadband as a minimum speed of 30Mbps download and 6Mbps upload.
The plan was launched, attracted much media attention and made people located in Ireland very hopeful. All big players within the telecommunications sector joined in what made the plan at least remotely viable within the coming years.
And yet, the delay follows a delay. Yes to lose one bidder, Siro was unfortunate. To lose a second, Eir, is somewhat embarrassing. It looks like right now, as of February 2018, Ireland, once one of the fastest growing economies in the word, is destined to remain unconnected and without reliable connectivity to Internet access. This is seriously bad PR for a state trying to sell itself internationally as a tech hub and deeply damaging for a government that was knocked back at the last election for being too Dublin-centric.
Hard questions must now be asked. How can a national broadband plan launched in 2012, with a realisation date of 2016, still be in the flailing tendering process as we enter 2018?
People are doubtful and you can’t blame them for being doubtful. Because people have been promised, broadband and broadband and broadband and it didn’t happen.
How are small businesses, not to mention individual users, going to compete with people who can easily browse online for better offers, higher discounts or simply better services?
They have to rely on services and products brought to them without the advantage of online discounts. Yes, there still is the possibility of searching online using our mobile phones but how viable is it? Unless we know what we are looking for it’s going to take time and can actually cost more if we exceed our allowances.
On the business side, how can small businesses even dream about being competitive without capitalising on economy of scale coming with access to bigger market? How can they even think about expanding when a simple task of checking emails is a nuisance?
These are the questions people living in rural Ireland are facing on a daily basis. Living in the city is simple when it comes to dealing with access to information. One should only compare broadband prices in Dublin and rural areas to know what’s the issue. The provision of services or products may be more expensive in rural Ireland but also the lack of competition doesn’t force the providers to lower their costs and improve on quality or efficiency. It is the rural customer that pays for that.