Sunday, 31 January 2016

Louth Economic Forum launches Ireland’s first county Broadband Action Plan

Louth Economic Forum has announced details of its Broadband Action Plan, which was launched by Minister for Business and Employment, Ged Nash, TD at an event in Ardee Business Park this morning.

Louth is the first county in Ireland to produce a county-broadband strategy in response to the National Broadband Plan. The Louth strategy runs until 2020 and aims to build on the significant progress achieved in recent years in broadband connectivity across the county, and in particular in facilitating access to rural areas that currently have little or no broadband.

To promote these improvements, Louth County Council has adopted a pro-business, pro-activity and a pro-jobs approach, which recognises that communities should also benefit from high speed broadband availability. The Action Plan involves business, broadband providers and Louth County Council working together to achieve this. It is based on a partnership approach to identify barriers to fast broadband, and to identify solutions to those barriers so that businesses, and communities, can access high-speed broadband.

Actions outlined in the plan include putting in place user-friendly procedures for companies investing in new broadband infrastructure and encouraging a similar approach from other regulatory agencies operating in the county, as well as identifying business broadband blackspots in the county for remediation. (See Note to Editors below for a summary of actions).

Launching the Broadband Action Plan, Minister Ged Nash TD said: “I would like to congratulate Louth on being the first county in the country to draft a local broadband plan and in showing leadership in this area. The availability of high speed broadband is vital in attracting new business, both international and indigenous, in job creation and economic prosperity.

“In the world in which we live, broadband is a deciding factor when businesses are choosing where to locate and it’s one that Louth can influence, through the implementation of this plan.”

Also speaking at the launch, interim Chairperson of Louth Economic Forum and Chief Executive of Louth County Council, Joan Martin said: “Both the Forum and Louth County Council recognise the importance of reliable, high speed, cost competitive broadband for economic growth in the county. It is now essential for companies, whether they want to trade online, use cloud computing, adopt innovative technologies or introduce more flexible working patterns.”

One of the stated aims of the Louth Economic Forum is to make Louth the country of choice to do business. At present, it is the third best broadband-enabled county in Ireland, behind Dublin and Kildare. It is envisaged that approximately 50,700 of the 60,000 premises in the county will have high speed broadband connectivity by the end of this year.

Ms Martin added: “Louth is currently the third most connected county in Ireland. By the end of 2016, it is hoped that 85 per cent of premises here will have access to high speed broadband. While Louth County Council cannot supply fast broadband, it can put the processes in place to facilitate such access. We hope that this action plan will put us on the path of becoming the most connected county in the country.”

She added: “There are few areas of modern life that are not touched in some way by broadband connectivity – whether it’s supporting how we work, how we learn, how we communicate with friends and family, or how we are entertained. While the Broadband Action Plan concerns business and was developed by the Louth Economic Forum, good connectivity for business has a knock-on effect on residential connectivity. Included among the pro-business actions in this plan is one to deliver free WiFi access at off peak hours to the public.”

Also speaking at the launch, Councillor Dolores Minogue said: “It is very fitting that we’re launching this plan in Ardee today as it is a ‘poster child’ for high speed broadband, being as it is one of the country’s ‘fibre towns’. Every business in the town centre, and Ardee Business Park, has access to high speed broadband through the enet Fibre to the Business (FTTB) project. This has had huge impact on businesses in the community, allowing them to successfully and confidently conduct business over the internet.”

Chairman of Louth County Council’s Economic and Enterprise Strategic Policy Committee, Councillor Mark Deary said: “A reliable and fast internet connection is critical to business growth and development and is essential to modern business practice. Whether big or small, companies now generally have an online component, through a company website, cloud computing, remote working or simply email connectivity.

“I am very proud that Louth is leading the way with the publication of the first county broadband action plan in Ireland.”

The Louth Economic Forum Broadband Action Plan can be downloaded here.