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As we navigate through the global crisis caused by COVID-19, it is clear that rural areas will bear a significant social and economic impact over the long-term.  The challenges that faced rural Ireland prior to the current pandemic such as higher poverty rates, lower incomes, fewer public services remain, and new challenges have emerged, not least the impact of a potentially prolonged period of unemployment on areas that were already struggling.

The COVID-19 crisis has changed how we live our lives and, in many ways, served to highlight inefficiencies or flaws in how we have structured our society or how we conduct our business. The pandemic and subsequent lockdown has also caused many of us to re-evaluate our perspectives on how society operates, and given us new found respect for certain professions and industries. Here are some lessons we hope that policymakers have learned from this current situation.

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The local and European elections threw up a variety of diverse issues many of which seem to be at odds with each other.  Concerns among voters about the impact of climate change and about the future of agriculture and livelihood of farmers may seem incompatible at first glance, but yet they are both very important issues to different sectors of society.  What these elections remind us is that a comprehensive policy framework is required to make progress on these issues and deliver a better future for everyone.

In this edition of our National Social Monitor, Social Justice Ireland looks at the budgets of each of the 31 Local Authorities and analyses where the money was spent, and where it wasn’t, to assess the priorities of local government. 

The increasingly imbalanced state of Gaelic football is merely one symptom of our imbalanced society. Ireland's current model, with so much development focused on the capital, precludes the kind of regional balance required for Ireland - and the GAA - to thrive.

700,000 on healthcare waiting lists, 500,000 homes without broadband, over 11,000 people homeless – a result of Government policy failing to tackle causes - Social Justice Ireland publishes National Social Monitor Winter 2018.

In order to improve the wellbeing of everyone in society, at all stages of the life cycle, it is vital that our policies address the causes of problems rather than their symptoms only.  It is through this lens that Social Justice Ireland examines the ten policy areas in the National Social Monitor. 

The proportion of people of working age in the regions further away from Dublin that have jobs has fallen by far more than on the eastern side of the country since the financial crisis.

Broadband timetable
Broadband Plan Timetable

The provision of quality Broadband to all citizens has been an objective of many Governments since 2008.  This graphic illustrates some of the stages to date.  Following the withdrawal of two of the three bidders for the licence to provide this essential service, delivery seems even further away.

Ireland needs an integrated transition from an agricultural to a rural and regional development agenda to improve the quality of life for all rural dwellers.  This will require policy coherence in terms of investment, social services, governance and sustainability as part of our Policy Framework for a Just Ireland.  A full analysis of the challenges in promoting facing Rural Ireland and our policy proposals are contained in our Socio-Economic Review 2015 ‘Towards a Just Society’.  The chapter is available below.

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