Providing affordable, high-quality broadband to rural Ireland would have been simpler, cheaper and quicker if the State’s telecoms infrastructure had remained in public ownership, according to top Fórsa official Angela Kirk.
Speaking ahead of the union’s Services and Enterprises Division Conference, which takes place in Sligo next week, the head of division also said European Union (EU) ‘state aid’ rules placed too much emphasis on protecting private operators and markets, instead of easing government intervention to improve services to the public.
National governments have to follow the complicated ‘state aid’ rules when the EU deems they are intervening in private markets.
Angela said Fórsa supports the objective of affordable high-speed broadband for all, and a thriving telecoms sector. “But people are rightly asking why the Irish taxpayer must hand over €3 billion for an asset that will be owned by a company that’s invested just €200 million.
“This project would have been far more straightforward if the EU was more focused on communities than corporations, and if the Irish telecoms sector included a state-owned provider,” she said.
ICTU General Secretary Patrica King also questioned why taxpayers were to fund a private distribution system that the State would never own. And she called on the Government to “ensure that high-quality labour standards are involved to deliver this project.”
Congress said the broadband plan would bring long-term benefits to workers, students, and families in rural Ireland if it were fully realised. But it said there were many questions hanging over the scheme.
“The public needs to be reassured that the State is getting value for money, and that a private monopoly will not hold consumers to ransom and charge what they like when the service is operational,” she said.