The issue of broadband prevision in rural areas was raised in the Oireachtas last week. Deputy Michael Moynihan TD from Cork said: “The digital divide that is developing in this country affects people from a lower socio-economic background and the elderly, in particular in rural areas. Broadband is the electricity of the 1950s. We need to ensure every part of this country is brought along.”

Minister for Communications and Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte TD responded by saying “I agree that we ought not to allow a new divide to arise in the country – this time a digital divide – between parts of the rural population and urban Ireland in terms of the services available there.”

“The problem is that we have the least densely populated rural areas in Europe. In common with other rural parts of Europe, the roll-out of broadband to these areas is immensely expensive.”

On the implementation of the Rural Broadband strategy the Minister said: “Because the State must intervene, we must go through state aid procedures in terms of getting approval in Europe for State intervention.”

According to the minister: “Every day, the commercial sector is improving the service that is available in large tracts of urban Ireland. Deputy Moynihan is correct when he says that the service is entirely inadequate in parts of rural Ireland. I accept that. We have started the mapping exercise with the suppliers. The EU requires us to present a detailed and supported application for state aid approval to roll out this facility to rural Ireland.”

“We will have finished the mapping exercise and made the submission by the end of the year. We are trying to do that with as much despatch as we can he added.”