Thursday, 15 July 2021
Department of Rural and Community Development
National Broadband Plan
118. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development if she will work with the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications to improve remote working facilities for persons in a location (details supplied) in areas which do not have high-quality broadband. [38634/21]
The increased shift to remote working as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has given us the opportunity for a greater regional distribution of jobs and to support a better quality of life for many people who previously spent many hours in long commutes. This is a key focus of the Government's new rural development policy Our Rural Future.
Remote working, supported by appropriate infrastructure and facilities, has the potential to encourage more people to live in rural areas while working in good quality jobs, no matter where their employer is based. It can also help revitalise our rural town if remote working hubs are developed in their centres.
Officials from my Department continue to work closely with officials from the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications to deliver the Broadband Connection Point (BCP) initiative - a key part of the National Broadband Plan. It is now in the latter stages of delivery and 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/. Of the 24 BCPs scheduled for delivery for County Cork, 16 have been delivered - a number of which are offering remote working facilities.
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 connectedhubs.ie/nationalhubsmap.html. This interactive map provides useful information in relation to each of the hubs and the services that are available at each site. At present, there are approximately 20 hubs registered on the platform in County Cork, with more likely to be added in the future.
Work on the National Hub Network is overseen by an Inter-Departmental Steering Group, which is chaired by my Department. The Department of Environment, Climate and Communications is represented on the Steering Group.
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 remote working by supporting 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.