The potential of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) currently being rolled out across Ireland by 3 could help transform rural life in County Leitrim according to an economic impact report by well known economist Jim Power. The report commissioned by 3 says that if a high quality and affordable Broadband offering like the NBS were to result in the creation of one new SME employing 10 people in each NBS electoral district in County Leitrim, the economic and financial benefits to the county would be very significant. It would result in the creation of potentially 450 jobs; it would result in a net wage injection of nearly €10.8 million into the local economy, which would have an income multiplier effect of €21.6 million. It would result in a contribution of over €2.7 million to the Exchequer, and €360,000 per annum to the local authority. In total it could result in an injection of almost €24.7 million to the local and national economy per annum. Over a 5-year period, this would have a net present value of over €107.5 million.

3, Ireland’s fastest growing mobile and broadband network is currently rolling out this much needed service to rural areas in Leitrim which is now an essential part of the competitiveness of an economy and those countries or regions with better Broadband penetration and quality tend to have a strong competitive advantage. The lack of Broadband is seriously affecting rural businesses and the rural economy. Mobile Broadband is deemed to be the best and most cost effective way to deliver 100% coverage to rural areas.

Jim Power’s report also examines incomes per person in the Border region. Disposable incomes per capita in the Border region are 8.9% below the national average, gross value added per capita is 27.5% below the national average and the unemployment rate at 14% is above the national average of 12.7%. Disposable incomes per capita in Leitrim are 10.3% behind the national average, and the number of people signing on the live register has increased by 50.8% over the past year.

“The availability of Broadband in County Leitrim is poor. High speed and affordable broadband has become an essential business tool and can no longer be regarded as a luxury service.  Broadband is playing an increasingly important role in how economies and societies operate. It is a very important business tool as it connects businesses to each other, both within the host country of the business and externally. From a societal point of view Broadband facilitates better communication, particularly in rural areas” said Jim Power in his report.

“After a prolonged period of strong economic growth the Irish economy is now in the midst of a deep economic recession. One of the significant features of the strong Irish economic performance over the past couple of decades has been the unbalanced nature of regional economic growth and development. Not all regions have shared the same levels of growth, prosperity and buoyancy. The economic and social profile of Leitrim in particular and the North-West in general is a source of concern. The region has not benefited from the Celtic Tiger era to anything like the extent than many other regions of the country have” he continued.

Robert Marshall, Corporate Affairs Manager, 3 said “The National Broadband Scheme is set to transform the most rural of areas which is vital for the overall national and regional economies. We have the most advanced technology in the world and this will encourage more SME businesses to move to and set up outside of the Greater Dublin area”.

Communications Minister Eamon Ryan announced the National Broadband Scheme following the conclusion of a competitive tendering process last January. The National Broadband Scheme will provide the remaining 10% of our population, or approximately 33% of the area of the country, with broadband services and Ireland will have 100% coverage by October 2010. Investment of €223 million from a combination of Exchequer funds, EU co-financing and ‘3’ will create 170 direct jobs. Hundreds more will be protected and created as the availability of broadband increases the investment and enterprise in the targeted areas.