Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Communications, Environment and Natural Resources Timmy Dooley TD has spoken in the Dáil today about the party’s ambition for Ireland to become a ‘mobile island’.  He was speaking in opposition to the Government’s decision to cede ownership of the national broadband network to the private sector despite investing hundreds of millions in its development.

Deputy Dooley commented, “I am firmly of the view that the Government is making a serious mistake in handing over the long term control of our national broadband network to the private sector.  While in the short term it may be true that customers don’t care where ownership sits as long as the broadband service improves, it could have a very serious impact in the medium to long term.

“Fianna Fáil believes that Ireland has a unique opportunity to position itself as a global leader in mobile technology and we should be making plans now for the universal roll-out of 5G and future generation networks.  Many of the multinationals we host, for example Facebook and Google, are investing very heavily in their mobile platforms and clearly see this as the highest growth sector in the future.  I am currently developing policy ideas on how we work with these companies to make Ireland the country where cutting edge mobile technologies are first deployed on a national basis.

“However, to do this and to facilitate the roll-out of a universal 5G+ network, we need long term clarity on the security and costs of the national broadband infrastructure.  Simply hoping that the private sector will play ball is not a sustainable or long sighted proposition.

“In our examination of this issue we have studied the poor performance of the UK’s Mobile Infrastructure Project.  There, £150m was made available to address the issue of mobile phone coverage blackspots.  The project failed, and looking especially to Northern Ireland, one of the key factors was the unwillingness of mobile phone operators to negotiate with the private sector for access to the broadband backbone necessary to deliver modern mobile services.

“The mistakes of the past warn us of the dangers associated with the path that is being taken, and yet the current Government refuses to heed those warnings.  When we as public representatives have to face our constituents in years to come and explain why they don’t have access to the latest mobile offerings, the decision taken this week will be a big part of the answer.”