Every house and business in Ireland – including those in the most isolated rural areas – will eventually have access to high-speed broadband, the government says.

Blog 3 - Rural Broadband (2)But it hasn’t put a time-frame on when it expects to deliver the promised internet access to an estimated 700,000 homes and businesses which it has identified as missing out on coverage from commercial telecoms providers.

Communications Minister Alex White today released a national broadband coverage map showing the areas where it was expected the major communications players would have delivered high-speed connections to by the end of 2016.

That network covers some 1.6 million premises, or 68% of the total homes and businesses across the country.

The remaining number, just below a third of the total, have been earmarked as needing state intervention in the National Broadband Plan – which it likened to “rural electrification in the last century”. The plan was first announced by then-communications minister Pat Rabbitte in 2012.

No pricetag has been put on the completed project, nor what technology would be used to deliver a minimum 30mbps broadband, although the government earlier quoted a €500 million figure for rolling out a fibre network to 1,100 small towns and villages under the scheme.

Those areas represent about 17% of the total now included in the intervention regions, although costs are likely to increase under the current plan is it also includes small villages and one-off houses in rural areas.

Every home, school and business in Ireland

White said the government would invest in infrastructure for all the neglected areas to make sure that every home, school and business had access to high-speed broadband, no matter where they were located.

“The delivery of high-quality broadband is about ensuring that our citizens in rural Ireland have the same life chances, and the same access to information, culture, ideas, social interaction and opportunity that people in urban areas can enjoy,” he said.

“It’s also about jobs in the rural economy. By ensuring access to high quality broadband we will help attract investment and ensure that businesses in rural Ireland can stay in rural Ireland.”

So when and where?

The government said it didn’t expect to start the network’s “physical build” until late 2016. The map will be put out for consultation first, followed by an estimated 6-month wait while the contract to deliver the infrastructure is put together. It then has to be put out to tender.

Under EU state-aid rules, the government can’t subsidise the broadband network for any region which would otherwise be serviced by the commercial sector.

White said the government had moved “a significant step closer to closing the digital divide” in publishing the map and it was his “personal hope” all the premises in the country would have high-speed broadband by 2020.

The counties most in need of broadband aid, based on the share of premises included in the state rollout plan, are:

– Roscommon, where 24,856, or 64% of all premises, need intervention
– Mayo, 50,831 (60%)
– Leitrim, 13,326 (60%)
– Monaghan, 19,551 (58%)
– Kerry, 51,180 (57%)
– Cavan, 24,197 (57%)