Tuesday, 25 May 2021
Department of Rural and Community Development
21. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the progress of broadband connection points; the typical time from installation to connection; the delays in the progress to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27948/21]
34. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which she continues to press for digital hubs throughout the country in both urban and rural areas presently deficient in investment in jobs (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27945/21]
48. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of community hubs and hot desks that have been supported and developed through funding by her Department over the past 12 months; the usage activity within such hubs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27884/21]
49. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development her engagement on the National Broadband Plan; and the number of remote hubs that are currently in operation or under construction supported by the State. [27973/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 21, 22, 34, 48 and 49 together.
Remote working at home, in digital hubs or Broadband Connection Points (BCP), has the potential to transform rural Ireland, allowing people to build careers in good quality jobs while continuing to live closer to home and generating economic activity in our rural towns and villages.
The BCP Initiative is one of the first deliverables of the National Broadband Plan. In the majority of BCPs a wireless broadband connection and internal customer-facing equipment is installed. When both elements are in place, the connection is established almost immediately.
To date, 178 of an approximately 300 sites have been fully installed and are ready for the public to use. There have been delays caused by the pandemic and Brexit, but these delays are reducing and the remaining sites are expected to be connected in the next few months.
My Department is also leading on the development of a National Hub Network. To date, we have identified more than 400 hubs across the country, not including the 300 operational and planned BCPs. All of these hubs and BCPs are eligible to apply for capital funding under the recently announced €5M Connected Hubs call.
In addition to the Connected Hubs call, the Town & Village Renewal Scheme has provided almost €3M to hubs and BCPs since the start of 2020. Over the same period, the Rural Regeneration & Development Fund invested approximately €25M in hub projects.
I am confident that remote working has a significant role to play in the economic and social development of rural and under-served communities. That is why all hubs, regardless of location, are eligible for the Connected Hubs call.
In keeping with the policy priorities set out in Our Rural Future, the development of and support for remote working capacity will be key for job creation and local economies throughout the country.