Responding to a Comreg report, allowing for a potential increase in rural broadband prices, IFA Countryside Chairman, Tim O Leary said it would be completely unacceptable to increase the price of a service that is completely inadequate for the majority of rural dwellers.
Mr O Leary said “There are half a million ‘one-off’ homes, farms and businesses located outside our main rural towns and villages. Thousands have zero access to broadband and the service available to those that do is substantially below the standard available in urban areas.”
A Universal Service Obligation (USO) currently requires Eircom to maintain telephone services at similar pricing and service levels across the country. This must be maintained and applied to quality broadband provision and pricing, O’Leary said: “An extension of the USO is currently under consideration. The Minister for Communications needs to ensure that this is extended to apply to all telecommunication and broadband services providers who intend to do business in rural Ireland.”
“Good broadband services are of national strategic importance not just for urban but also for rural dwellers. Investing in the infrastructure to allow the service to improve for rural Ireland will pay significant dividend in terms of job creation and investment opportunities. Creating a digital divide by forcing rural Ireland to pay higher prices for less than basic broadband service is unacceptable.” O’Leary insisted.
Mr O Leary concluded by saying that he will be raising this issue with the new Minister for Communications Alex White, along with other concerns about the broadband pricing issue and the extension of the USO.