Broadband rollout continues apace

PROGRESS Seven-year timeframe could be accelerated

Although the roll-out of the rural broadband scheme has a seven-year timeframe, it is “theoretically” possible that could be shortened. A presentation on the project given to members of Cavan County Council heard that eight broadband connection points (BCPs) have already been set up under the scheme as the project continues apace.

Niall Beirne, the head of strategic communication and stakeholder engagement with National Broadband Ireland (NBI), addressed the members at the April meeting of the authority.

A Cavanman himself, Mr Beirne said he was particularly delighted to make the presentation to the local authority members. His presentation focused specifically on the Cavan picture.

“From an implementation point of view, the project really is in its infancy,” the NBI communication specialist said. “It’s only 14 or 15 months old. In that time, we have been doing the precursor work before we can start building in the communities.”

Nationally NBI have surveyed over 200,000 properties: “We are live and building infrastructure. Cavan, along with Carrigaline in Cork, are two of the first areas that actually went live this year.”

Mr Beirne was referring to the Allison family from the Drumard outside Cavan. Their home was the first rural Ireland home to have high-speed broadband delivered under the Government’s National Broadband Plan. “From a national point of view it puts Cavan on the map and hammers home the point that we are active and live,” he said.

In Cavan there are 16,242 premises in the area targeted by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) under the Government’s National Broadband Plan.

Mr Beirne said eight of the 12 broadband connection points planned for the county are now connected and providing high speed broadband. Community centres in Drumavaddy, Templeport, Cornafean, Mullahoran and Castlerahan are live, as are Castle Saunderson Scout Centre, Glangevlin Community Hall and GallonRay House. Work on Kill GFC is under way.

Three more - Killinkere Leisure Centre, Bunnoe Community Centre and Kildallan Parish Hall - are planned, while 19 schools are also to be connected under an accelerated programme.

Mr Beirne told councillors that work is well underway in Cavan but it will be a number of years before the county is fully connected.

The Cavan premises targeted under the plan includes homes, farms, commercial businesses and schools. This equates to around 38% of all premises in the county. Under the National Broadband Plan, Cavan will see an investment of €65M in the new high-speed fibre network.

Mr Beirne said NBI are responsible for the design, build and operation of the infrastructure, but are not a broadband provider. He said local providers, like Arden Broadband in Cavan, play a vital role in bringing broadband to communities.

Councillors John Paul Feeley said: “Seven years is an awful long time to wait. We would like to see it fast tracked to the greatest extent possible,” before commenting on the difficulty elderly people are experiencing with personal safety devices that required landline connection. He said the more information customers had available the better.

Cllr Brendan Fay (Ind) said there were still a lot of black spots in broadband coverage across the county, while Cllr TP O’Reilly asked about the provision of service to new builds.

Cathaoirleach Sarah O’Reilly asked if NBI were in communication with local authorities to avoid the situation where resurfaced roads or footpaths would be dug up to install ducting.

Another query raised related to the provision of service by Eir. There was a suggestion that the communication company was selling alternative products to customers who should be able to avail of a service under the NBI rollout.

Mr Beirne said, given the size and scale of the project, a seven-year time frame was appropriate as they were scheduled to make provision for 544,000 properties, addressing 96% of the landmass of the country.

However he said acceleration could “theoretically” be possible in consultation with the State.

Councillors thanked Mr Beirne for his presentation.