MacSharry digs in over cost of rural broadband

Service to rural Ireland ‘must not be provided at any cost to the taxpayer.’

‘I have a responsibility to ensure that taxpayers are protected, and the State does not squander their money.’

Sligo News File.

Once again the Irish countryside is being relegated to the back burner as chaos jams the works over the provision of the long-promised rural broadband programme. And now a local TD has thrown in his tuppence worth arguing that “value for money must be the key consideration in the rollout.” He has also submitted that the department must assess the “cost and analyse all options.”

God only knows how long then delivery of the rural plan is set to take.

Marc MacSharry TD…rural broadband not at any cost to taxpayer

Commenting after Department of Communications personnel met with the Public Accounts Committee, Deputy Marc MacSharry said officials admitted that their department had “failed to undertake a full cost-benefit analysis on faster and more affordable alternatives such as 5G wireless.”

Agreeing that rural broadband “must be delivered,” he stressed, however, that it must not be “at any cost to the taxpayer.”

“Before the government makes a decision that will involve spending billions of euros, we need to ensure that everything is costed, considered and completed.”

“I have grave concerns that the State could end up spending billions of euros on rolling out the National Broadband Plan without ensuring the best value for money for taxpayers,” he said.

“What we learned from officials appearing before the Public Accounts Committee about its plans for the roll-out of rural broadband is worrying.”

“As a rural TD, I fully appreciate the need for high speed, reliable broadband. Rural communities simply can’t wait any longer. However, I also have a responsibility to ensure that taxpayers are protected, and the State does not squander their money.”

Aurivo co-op headquarters moved from Tubbercurry to base in Sligo town

The proceedings at the Public Accounts Committee did nothing to inspire confidence, he claimed.

“If the Department is happy with an uptake of only one-in-five home to its fibre to the home broadband solution, as has been Eir’s experience in urban areas, this, he estimated “could see the cost of connections hit €27,000 per house.”

Alternatives to the prevailing system included “5G fixed wireless which could connect 99% of homes in Ireland for as little as €1,000 per home.

“The most technologically advanced countries globally – the U.S., Japan, China and South Korea – are now moving to launch 5G service.

He added that the department and the government needed to ensure that they “do not sleepwalk into a bad deal for taxpayers.”