Tuesday, 25 May 2021
Department of Rural and Community Development
583. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development further to Parliamentary Question No. 2097 of 24 March 2021, if her Department has made recent introductions between local authority broadband officers and satellite companies in relation to broadband connectivity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28229/21]
My Department continues to pursue a number of different projects to further broadband connectivity across rural Ireland and, although there have been no further introductions between local authority broadband officers and satellite companies since the Deputy’s previous question, there has been good progress in broadband connectivity in a number of areas and across several projects run by my Department.
There are now 178 Broadband Connection Points (BCP) live, with that number growing every month. My Department is working with these sites to support initiatives in the BCPs under various themes, including: remote working, skills and education training, eHealth services, and arts and culture events. Programmes will be run throughout the BCP network over the rest of the year.
The WiFi4EU project started in 2018 and aims to provide free public Wi-Fi connectivity for citizens and visitors in communities across the EU. Each Local Authority applied for vouchers from the EU with my Department matching this funding up to a maximum of €15,000 per voucher. These vouchers can be used for the installation of Wi-Fi equipment to enable free Wi-Fi access in public spaces including parks, squares, public buildings, libraries, health centres and museums. Six Local Authorities have already officially launched and, once completed, the WiFi4EU project will see circa 2,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots connected across Ireland.
Microsoft's Airband Television White Space Technology has also been deployed in County Carlow, an example of the kind of innovative solutions that can be explored when Government, Local Government and industry work collaboratively to address connectivity and other barriers experienced by disadvantaged communities across rural Ireland.
The Local Authority Broadband Officers continue to meet as a network with my Department on a monthly basis. Most recently, the meeting included a presentation from my Department on the €5M Connected Hubs Call. This initiative will provide funding to support small scale capital works in existing hubs, both public and private, and Broadband Connection Points.