Tuesday, 13 July 2021
Department of Rural and Community Development
641. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the steps she is taking to fulfil the Programme for Government commitment to support the development of broadband connection points across the country and the development of digital hubs which can support remote working in as many of the connection points as possible; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37418/21]
The Broadband Connection Point (BCP) initiative is a key element of the National Broadband Plan and of Our Rural Future. It is now in the latter stages of delivery. As of 6 July, 203 Broadband Connection Points are live and in use, with the remaining sites in the process of being surveyed, installed or tested. The map of live BCPs can be found on: nbi.ie/bcp-map/.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working has proven its value in maintaining economic activity and many of the BCP sites are either currently offering facilities for remote workers or have plans to so in the near future. Remote working can help to retain talented people in rural communities, encourage mobile workers to move to the regions, provide increased trade for local businesses, and revitalise our rural towns.
I launched the National Hub Network, connectedhubs.ie, on 31 May in the Swinford Digiwest Hub in Co. Mayo. Since the launch, 113 hubs have signed on and are now using the platform, with an additional 49 hubs in the process of being onboarded. Furthermore, the number of hubs identified through the Western Development Commission's hub discovery process has increased to 505. These are in the process of being verified before they are mapped on . This interactive map provides useful information in relation to each of the hubs and the services that are available at each site.
Since 2016 my Department has invested more than €50 million in the development of remote working facilities through the Town and Village Renewal Scheme and the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund. Investment in new remote working facilities will continue in 2021 through further calls for both schemes.
I have also allocated €5 million to fund a Connected Hubs Call this year. This initiative will provide funding to support small scale capital works in existing hubs and Broadband Connection Points. Applications are currently being evaluated by my officials and I expect to shortly be in a position to announce the results of the evaluation process.