Fianna Fáil TD for Carlow – Kilkenny Bobby Aylward says rural communities are being left behind as a result of poor broadband services.

Deputy Aylward made the comments after raising the matter in the Dáil with Minister for Communications Denis Naughten who acknowledged the fact that a lack of broadband services is harming rural Ireland.

“Many rural and regional towns are being forced to endure unacceptably slow broadband services. This is leading to a digital divide which is harming our communities. Job creation is being particularly impacted on as entrepreneurs who want to set up businesses in rural areas and small towns cannot do so due to poor broadband services,” said Deputy Aylward.

“I raised this issue in the Dáil with Minister Naughten and stressed the need for him to ensure there is equality in the roll-out of broadband services for rural communities. It’s simply not acceptable for the Government to focus on increasing broadband speeds and reliability in our cities while at the same time abandoning rural areas.

“A recent Switcher report revealed that certain parts of rural Ireland have broadband speeds which are 36 times slower than our capital. This is an extraordinary figure which clearly demonstrates the digital divide that has emerged under this Government.

“Research carried out by Vodafone Ireland also found that one third of rural businesses are considering moving their premises to an urban centre as they cannot afford to be left out of the digital economy. This means that small and mediums sized businesses ability to grow, expand and create jobs is being completely undermined. Job opportunities are literally walking out of rural areas and regional towns as we speak.

“Minister Naughten acknowledged my concerns by saying that they are “fully correct”. He knows that poor broadband services are diving SME’s out of rural areas and regional towns. His honesty is refreshing but it nonetheless remains the fact that it is Minister Naughten who has responsibility for the rollout of the National Broadband Plan. He needs to set out a viable plan for ensuring there is equal rollout of broadband across the country. I remain to be convinced that he has such a plan,” concluded Deputy Aylward.