Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education and Skills Thomas Byrne TD has criticised Minister Richard Bruton for failing to ensure schools have access to high speed broadband services.

Deputy Byrne said many children are being unfairly marginalised as a result of poor broadband access in schools and added that Minister Bruton needs to make his voice heard in Government regarding the need to progress the National Broadband Plan.

Deputy Byrne said, “There is a growing digital divide in schools right across the country. The Government hasn’t taken this problem seriously in recent years and the result is that many schools that fall outside of high speed broadband areas are left with substandard internet services.

“This means many students in rural districts are losing out on learning opportunities as they grow up. Meanwhile their peers in towns and urban centres are enjoying speedy access to modern broadband and benefiting from a huge variety of online educational resources.

“Schools in communities where broadband is being rolled out are not even benefiting from such advances because these schools are in areas not deemed commercially viable for broadband operators. They must therefore wait for enhanced broadband in the years to come, as part of the Government’s delayed National Broadband Plan. Many schools are adjacent to where Eir are currently connecting homes to fibre broadband, but they are unable to avail of such services.

“The responsibility for the National Broadband Plan falls under Minister for Communications Denis Naughten. His performance to date has left a lot to be desired. The rollout of the plan has been plagued by long running delays and we are still unsure when areas earmarked for State intervention will actually get access to high speed broadband.

“The delay in rolling out high speed broadband to all schools is having a detrimental impact on pupils across the country. Minister Bruton needs to speak up and make his voice heard. He needs to ensure that this Government meets its commitments on the rollout of the National Broadband Plan,” concluded Deputy Byrne.