Naughten plans will give whip hand to private sector in rural broadband delivery

Seán Sherlock TD
05 July 2016

The proposed “private sector ownership model” being brought forward by Minister for Communications Denis Naughten is being touted as the cheapest and quickest way to deliver broadband to rural areas however history shows this type of plan to be deeply flawed.

Similar plans in the past have caused major long-term difficulties as they leave control of key infrastructure in private hands. Many people judge the privatisation of Eircom as the single biggest economic mistake of an Irish government prior to the disastrous blanket bank guarantee in 2008. The privatisation of Eircom stifled broadband rollout for years in this country and is partly responsible for the broadband deficit we are now still trying to make up.

This plan seems to be very similar to agreements reached on projects such as the M50 Westlink. That fiasco ended up costing taxpayers billions of Euro to wrest back control of such a key piece of national infrastructure.

Also the reason that so many of these areas are lacking quality high speed broadband is because private companies have deemed them to be unprofitable or prohibitively costly to operate in.

While the model being pushed will provide a set period where the service will be provided after that time has elapsed the service is then in the hands of the private companies who have already written these areas off.

At the end of the agreed period it is very real possibility that we will see a ramping up the costs to make it profitable or the pulling of the service as they deem it too costly to provide.

Labour in government ensured that despite the worst of economic circumstances that key strategic national infrastructural assets were kept in state ownership. Broadband must be seen as one of the most important pieces of infrastructure for Ireland’s future and needs better protection then the Minister’s current plans provide.

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