The frustration of many has been evident in relation to broadband issues across the media in recent weeks. Thanks largely to the efforts of a small group of committed individuals – including most publicly John McElligott of EBay, Matt Cooper of Today FM, Richard Oakley of the Sunday Times, and my colleague here in the Oireachtas, Senator Shane Ross, but also due to a grassroots campaign – broadband issues have remained high on the agenda since shortly after Christmas. Convinced of the crucial importance of this problem, I am happy to have also made a contribution by launching at the end of January a significant policy document, on which I worked for several months, on the provision of high-speed broadband services in Ireland: http://www.finegael.ie/news/documents/creating%20a%20fibre%20nation%20final%20web.pdf. This document is not the resolution to all broadband challenges but I believe it is a constructive contribution to the discussion.
In the context of all this activity, it was terribly disheartening to hear that the only response from government was to announce the creation of an advisory forum, with vague terms of reference and no deadlines. Instead of taking firm, decisive action which would bring about improvements as a matter of urgency, the Minister has created another talking shop. The government appears content to do nothing about a situation where our average advertised download speeds are third-worst out of 35 OECD countries, ahead of only Mexico and Turkey, and multinationals are getting itchy feet.
We need to keep applying pressure to make things happen. The Minister is naturally inclined to spend more time on energy issues than on communications, and it was only in response to public pressure that he made this small step. It will only be in response to greater pressure that he will go further, and actually address the urgent issues at stake. I will be doing my best to keep the issue high up the agenda, by raising it in the Dáil and the media as often as I can. Hopefully others will join me, and should feel free to contact me at my Oireachtas office, on 01-6183753, or by sending views and comments to email@example.com.