Shane Ross


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Luddites In Leinster House Are Blind To The Lack Of Broadband

Posted on: November 21st, 2007

Last week, I was guest speaker at the Irish Internet Association’s (IIA) ‘net visionary’ awards in the Mansion House. It is a sell-out. These guys are at the coalface of Ireland’s economic boom. There are billions of euro sitting at the dinner tables.

I launch a broadside against Ireland’s broadband deficit. Why are we so behind the rest of Europe on broadband? Well, Leinster House is laden with Luddites. Its IT system is antedeluvian and no one in Government gives a toss. Half our TDs do not seem to know how to open a laptop.

The younger breed at the Irish Internet Association bash are at last beginning to deliver the message that broadband is as vital for business today as transport, roads and airports were yesterday.

The Government will have to provide the money. No need for a string of new quangos but a National Broadband Authority with a budget, a limited life and instructions to deliver penetration by a deadline date to every house in Ireland is essential.

So far the multinationals do not seem to have rumbled our appalling situation. But recently John McElligott, managing director of eBay, told me that he was “more concerned than ever regarding the current state of our broadband connectivity.”

He warned against complacency and asked a far more awkward question: “How can we be confident that we will be leaders of the next generation network?” We should listen to John. He is the Irish boss of an influential multinational.

Even Northern Ireland, hardly a hotbed of high-tech nerds, has shown us a clean set of heels. In that supposedly devastated wasteland the UK Government has installed universal broadband access. Meanwhile, it remains a struggle to convince the Luddites here that our lack of it is a major problem.

For more on the IIA, click here.