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Rural broadband initiative to benefit North West Cross-Border region

Published on:  19 Feb 2007

As prime funder in a EUR1million communications infrastructural development, the International Fund for Ireland today welcomed the launch of the Community Network Services (CNS) Project.  The CNS project is an innovative and ambitious initiative to bring wireless broadband internet access to the North-West border region through cross-border partnership.

Inspired by the impact of broadband services on other economically and socially disadvantaged regions, representatives of the community sector, councils and development agencies in Donegal, Derry and Tyrone, have joined forces with the aim of bringing broadband services to areas in the North West that would not otherwise be served by the private sector over the next few years.

To this end, CNS has engaged the services of ERNACT, a centre for cross-border broadband and internet expertise, to develop and project manage a high speed broadband network that will support existing community organisations and enterprises, and encourage new community based projects and further inward investment to the area.

Colm McColgan, General Manager, ERNACT, commented: “CNS will transform the current broadband deficit to such an extent that the North West, and particularly mainly rural Donegal, can serve as a model for other rural areas of the island of Ireland.  For the first time this century, the area will have an asset that will enable it to confidently market the advantages of living in a beautiful environment whilst developing the capacity of its cross-border communities to build and attract ‘knowledge intensive’ operations based on research and development, digital media and mobile computing.” 

Mr. Michael McCafferty, Chairperson, Community Network Services outlined the potential of this project to enhance the social and economic life of the area: “This service will allow the Community Sector within the North West Cross-Border Area to begin addressing a whole range of new issues including online learning, digital media for cultural exchange and eBusiness in the social economy.”

The International Fund for Ireland is the main funder of this project, contributing EUR500,000 towards the project costs of EUR1million. Other funders include INTERREG, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Donegal County Council and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

Speaking at the launch of the service today, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, Mr. Denis Rooney said “This project has immense potential to rejuvenate the local economy. It will put in place the infrastructure to allow existing local enterprises stretch their wings, and it will also encourage the development of new enterprises in the area, to the benefit of the wider local community as a whole.”

“For many years, the Fund has supported socio-economic regeneration projects in communities which have suffered as a result of the troubles and their legacy, as a means of encouraging divided communities to engage with each other. The CNS project highlights the value of this approach.”

Minister for Agriculture and Food, Ms. Mary Coughlan T.D. said: “This is a very important development for the North West region as a whole.  Broadband brings a world of opportunity to our rural communities and is essential infrastructure for modern jobs creation and growth.  This project is one centred on a very real desire to see further economic and social development through tangible cross-border co-operation and will make a very real difference on the ground for people on both sides of the border.”

Encouraging the project promoters in their endeavours, Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Mr. Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D, referred to the success of other regional and group broadband schemes which have brought broadband capabilities to areas of low population density.

The project is expected to be fully implemented by the end of 2007.

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