NEW analysis shows 97% of all jobs created in IDA-backed companies in Limerick over the last decade have been in firms connected to the state-funded metropolitan area network (MAN).
The MANs were developed in the early 2000s and were a response by government to a market failure arising from under-investment by the then Eircom monopoly - particularly in delivering high speed broadband outside of Dublin.
And Limerick-based enet, which manages dozens of the fibre optic networks around provincial cities and towns, said the Limerick MAN has proven a huge success in supporting foreign direct investment (FDI) in the city.
Its analysis shows that between 2004 and 2013, the IDA announced a total of 2,950 jobs in Limerick-based FDI firms. And 2,876 are in companies connected to the local MAN.
“The MANs programme was originally developed to bring greater platform competition for the delivery of telecoms in regional Ireland. You have to remember that when the MANs were launched, they addressed the problems with the single supplier monopoly that had previously existed by creating a completely alternative network,” stated Conal Henry, CEO of enet.
“Importantly, the MANs are operated in an open access fashion, meaning that all telcos can have access. This model is contrary to the exclusive way that traditional operators’ networks functioned and allows for competition in a way that had not previously happened.”
And the IDA’s ICT manager Leo Clancy said the development of the MANs had helped Ireland catch up on other developed economies.
“High speed broadband connectivity is as important as water, light and heat for modern businesses. The progress made by the industry in ensuring that we have widespread high quality broadband available to multinational companies investing here has contributed strongly to foreign direct investment growth,” said Mr Clancy.
While the IDA is still being criticised for being Dublin-centric, Mr Henry believes the picture in the regions might look worse were it not for the MANs.
“While the MANs do not directly create these FDI jobs, they certainly enhance the capacity of the cities and towns...to compete for these projects and remove any telecoms barriers. The success of this strategy is dramatically underlined by the performance of the Limerick MAN,” Mr Henry said.