The ending of the National Broadband Scheme, which guaranteed certain service levels to rural communities, has come under fire from a number of sources.
However, the organisation that deals with local and voluntary groups in North Tipperary, CAVA, has said that it is too early to say what effect the decision will have on their members because their own funding had been cut.
“Our funding has been totally cut. We had a development officer, but we are now totally voluntary. Our members have no one to give feedback to,” said CAVA chair Frank Higgins.
He also pointed out that they would have groups who would not have had access to the internet anyway.
However, there are fears that users will have to pay up to E180 per year to maintain broadband speeds, and some have already described this charge as “another tax on rural Ireland”.
Deputy Mattie McGrath described the setback as “further confirmation of the Government’s incoherent strategic approach to rural Ireland”.
“Those homes and businesses in rural Ireland who were supposed to be directly helped by the NBS are in a situation where they are facing minimum price increases of up to €180 if they want to access decent levels of internet speed,” he said.
The move was also criticised by the farm group, ICSA, whose rural development chairman Billy Gray expressed concern at the news.
“Rural dwellers in Tipperary are now set to be hit with both price hikes and reductions in broadband speed,” said Mr Gray.
“In this day and age it is simply not acceptable that whole swathes of rural Ireland would be without quality and affordable broadband. It would be akin to the Irish Government of the late 1960s announcing that it couldn’t afford to deliver electricity to all rural areas. The Government’s whole broadband strategy is a farce,” he said. Mr Gray called on Minister Alex White to expedite the delivery of a new National Broadband Plan.