The contract for the National Broadband Plan has officially been signed, bringing Longford one step closer to high speed broadband in every home and business
In what has been described as a “landmark day” by several politicians and local representatives, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Cabinet Ministers met yesterday to officially sign the final contract for the National Broadband Plan, which will see an investment of €34 million bring high speed broadband to more than 8,600 homes in rural Longford.
The National Broadband Plan is the Government’s plan to roll-out high speed broadband to the 1.1 million people living and working in the nearly 540,000 premises nationally, including 100,000 businesses and farms, and over 600 schools, where commercial operators will not commit to deliver the service.
Work will start immediately with the roll-out of broadband within eight weeks of today's contract signing and more than 90% of premises in the State will have access to high speed broadband within four years.
Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring TD has said that the signing of the contract marks "a new dawn for people who live and work in rural Ireland", adding that the National Broadband Plan will be "a game-changer" for rural parts of the country.
"Internet access affects almost every aspect of the way we live and work today. As Minister for Rural and Community Development, I know that access to high-speed broadband will have a powerful, transformative effect on the lives of people and communities in rural areas. It will enable the diversification of rural economies and will provide businesses with opportunities to create new jobs and to access new markets," Minister Ring commented.
"The Government’s commitment to a maximum possible investment of €3 billion, to deliver the National Broadband Plan, reflects the importance we attach to the equitable economic and social development of our country. With this commitment, we are making a clear statement that rural Ireland matters, that it is a sound investment, and that our nation’s economic and social development relies as much on the contribution and creativity of rural dwellers as it does on those living in our cities."
Closer to home, Cathaoirleach of Longford County Council Micheál Carrigy has said that the development is "extremely welcome" in county Longford.
"This will be the most significant investment in rural Ireland since rural electrification and will transform communities, attracting investment, creating jobs and changing the way people access services including health and education," said Cllr Carrigy, who added that he hopes to see the roll-out of high speed broadband get underway as soon as possible.
"The people of Longford have waited long enough," he said.
Former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten TD said that today's signing of the contract is "one of the defining days in the history of our country and will be the turning point for the revitalisation of rural Ireland".
"There is no doubt that over the next 35 years this investment will repay the exchequer in multiples in terms of healthcare, education and innovation. Just as roads came and then electricity, broadband will now be delivered to every town land in Ireland and it will leave a lasting a legacy throughout our country.
"To overcome isolation, to challenge the sense of powerlessness in homes and in parishes across rural Ireland, our children must be able to do their homework, our small enterprises and family farms must be able to do their business on-line if required. This investment will make this a reality."
Perhaps one of the places in Longford which has most felt the effects of poor broadband services up to this point is Legan in south Longford. Businesses in Legan have been struggling since the internet rose to power and the National Broadband Plan announcement will benefit those businesses and their ilk across the country the most.
Quick to express his excitement about the new development was Cllr Paul Ross, who has long been calling for fast internet services for Legan and surrounding areas.
"Great news today that the Government has signed the contract with NBI with a €34 million investment commitment to deliver high speed broadband to County Longford," said a delighted Cllr Ross earlier today.
“Quite simply, this means rural communities in Longford will not be left behind. All of rural Ireland will get the same access to opportunities offered by high-speed broadband as those in urban areas. With the work ongoing on the Business hubs in Abbeyshrule, Edgeworthstown and Longford this should give us an edge in attracting business into the county."
Richard Bruton, Minister for Communications, has stressed that this "historic day" for rural Ireland will have "a transformative impact on rural Ireland, opening up opportunities in enterprise, health, smart farming to name a few".
"By guaranteeing high speed broadband for every home, business and farm in the country, we are ensuring no one is left behind," he said.
"Without high speed broadband it will be significantly more difficult to attract new jobs to rural areas and develop new enterprise opportunities and it will be more difficult to retain the jobs that currently exist in these areas. With high speed broadband, we can ensure that people in rural Ireland are able to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented by the digital economy, from health care to farming, and from education to agriculture, rural development and tourism. We will not leave rural Ireland and one quarter of our country behind."
Today is a historic day for rural Ireland. The government are signing the National Broadband Contract, which will bring High-speed broadband to the 1.1M people across Ireland who can’t get access #NationalBroadbandPlan #Ireland2040— Richard Bruton (@RichardbrutonTD) November 19, 2019
At the official signing of the National Broadband Plan contract earlier today, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the Plan will bring Ireland "closer together".
"Some people try to divide our country - urban vs rural, east coast vs west coast, Dublin vs the rest of the country. The Government is all about bringing Ireland closer together, ensuring that all parts of the country benefit from our prosperity. That requires investment in roads, broadband, higher education and enterprise and it’s happening," he said.
"This contract means that every home, school, farm and business in Ireland will get access to high speed broadband. No part of the country will be left behind in securing the jobs and opportunities of the future. And as we know, the future is already here in our daily lives with online access offering ever more opportunities for living and working.
"Broadband will be the biggest investment in Rural Ireland ever.We can have more people working from home, a better work-life balance, fewer car journeys, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. We can connect better with the world, with family members, with business, with new ideas and new ways of doing things. Every school in the country, like this one I’m standing in today, will be able to access digital technologies for teaching, while healthcare professionals can check in and monitor patients remotely no matter where they are based."
It’s official! Today, we have signed the contract for the National Broadband Plan. Every home, school, farm and business in Ireland will get access to high speed broadband. No part of the country will be left behind. The NBP is the biggest ever investment in Rural Ireland. pic.twitter.com/WDH79TT1U7— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) November 19, 2019
Longford/Westmeath Fine Gael TD Peter Burke has also welcomed the announcement of €34 million, which has been allocated to Longford. A member of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee, Deputy Burke said that this is a positive development for rural Ireland.
“This is a landmark day in both Longford and across the country. The Government has signed a final contract for the National Broadband Plan, which will see investment of €34 million invested into 8,602 homes across Longford alone,” he said.