Fine Gael Longford Westmeath TD Peter Burke has welcomed the fact that Minister Heather Humphreys had met with Longford County Council to progress broadband roll out.

“My colleague, the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys, is today (Thursday) holding the first of two regional meetings with Local Authorities from across the country as part of her plans to ensure the timely roll out of rural broadband.

“The meetings, which will bring together all 31 Local Authorities over two days, are being held in Carrick-on-Shannon today (Thursday) and Kilkenny tomorrow (Friday).

“I’m delighted that the Minister’s Department will be working directly with Longford County Council and Local Authorities around the country to eliminate any possible delays and progress a number of positive initiatives, such as the development of Local Digital Strategies, ahead of the roll out of rural broadband from summer 2017.

“The Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs will also be helping Longford County Council to develop a digital strategy to identify the role that broadband can play in the future economic and social development of Longford, as well as helping to stimulate demand once the network is rolled out.

“As well as this, the Department will work with the County Council to create broadband hubs in rural areas, to ensure that more isolated communities in Longford have access to broadband while the network is being rolled out.

“Fine Gael is committed to the National Broadband Plan, which aims to provide access to high speed broadband to approximately 757,000 postal addresses, traversing 96% of the national land mass, which is equivalent to 100,000km of road.

“The contract or contracts for the National Broadband Plan will be signed in summer 2017, and Minister Humphreys is working closely with Longford County Council to remove any obstacles to broadband roll out before then. I am aware that this is a time consuming process and people are frustrated with how long it is taking and I understand this frustration. The Department has future-proofed the roll out so that lines laid now will be suitable to serve future generations and increased demand.

“It is essential that towns and villages in Longford are ready for the delivery of high speed broadband and have the right tools to maximise its impact once it arrives.

“Broadband is a vital part of Fine Gael’s plans to revitalise rural Ireland. Access to high speed broadband will open up a huge range of new economic and social opportunities for communities in Longford”.