Cllr Liam Brazil: "Decent broadband access shouldn't be dependant on good weather."The mid-Waterford and New Ross areas both stand to benefit from the Government’s new €1 billion National Broadband Plan (NBP), the roll-out of which is due to kick off in the summer of 2017.
However, political representatives in both areas hope that businesses and residents in their respective localities are not left waiting until the latter stages of this five-year plan before they’ll see the benefits of such an upgrade.
Speaking to The Munster Express, Comeragh Councillor Liam Brazil (FG) said that townlands throughout mid and coastal Waterford, such as Stradbally, Bonmahon, Kill and Dunhill were “still in the dark” when it came to high-speed broadband provision.
“Most of us living and working in the area are working off satellite-provided 3G connections,” said Cllr Brazil.
“And getting a decent broadband connection in huge sections of the Comeragh District at the moment is similar to what it was like back in the time when we were depending on good weather around the old transmitter on the mountain to give us a good picture for the English television stations.
“To be trying to encourage businesses to come into this part of the county when we don’t have adequate broadband coverage at us leaves us with probably more than just one hand tied behind our back when it comes to trying to promote a growth in rural business.
“But existing businesses and those wanting to run businesses from home in our area are crying out for this, and have been for a good many years. And farmers, who are, when it comes down to it, running small and medium enterprises right across rural Waterford, need broadband now to run their farms as best they can so they can keep pace with farmers in other counties where broadband provision isn’t a problem.
“What we heard from the government last week is obviously good news, but I think we know we may have to wait a bit longer for the broadband we badly need, as I suspect the providers will set about improving what’s in place in Waterford, Dungarvan, Tramore and Lismore before our area gets a look-in. I’d love to be wrong about that but that’s just the reality. But the day those of us living and working in mid-Waterford aren’t depending on good weather for the quality of our internet access will be a good day, no doubt about it.”
Meanwhile, in New Ross, Cllr Michael Sheehan (FF) believes the town has been effectively “bypassed” by SIRO, ESB and Vodafone’s joint broadband venture, in its initial fibre-optic broadband roll-out, due to “one particular reading of the 2011 Census”.
Cllr Sheehan believes that SIRO didn’t include New Ross in a plan which takes in Gorey, Wexford Town and Enniscorthy by citing the Old Borough population of the town (“the core middle of the town, as I’d see it”) as standing at 4,000.
“This, in my reading of the SIRO strategy, puts Ross below the threshold for this initial roll-out, but the Old Borough boundary doesn’t take into account several parts of the town, such as where Tesco is located, in the Retail Park, or a residential estate like Stephen’s Court, which has approximately 50 houses and at least 200 residents.
“In an administrative sense, those areas are not part of what the 2011 Census would constitute as part of the town of New Ross, when common sense would tell you that they obviously are in Ross.
“But SIRO went with what the 2011 Census stated in terms of the town core’s population which meant the scope for such a project in the town was considered too narrow. From my talks with SIRO, once they’ve got the cable laid in Wexford, Gorey and Enniscorthy, their next regional roll-out is expected to be Waterford, in effect, bypassing New Ross, and again, I can’t see the logic in that.
“Of course, it should also be rolled out in Waterford, but possibly bypassing Ross like this is a little like building a new stretch of road, but leaving a bit out in the middle, going on with the road works elsewhere and leaving the disregarded area in the middle on the long finger.”
Cllr Sheehan added: “Broadband access is as important as having natural gas or adequate, serviced site availability that the IDA can showcase to prospective investors. We need all three, otherwise we can’t even get on the track, so to speak, never mind attempt to be at the races…
“The next few years are going to absolutely critical for New Ross, ahead of the opening of the bypass and new bridge in 2019, and we’ve got be ready to make the town as attractive as we can for visitors, businesses and prospective visitors alike. Come that time, we’re going to have give people the best possible reason to visit our town, to stay in our town and, ideally, to invest in our town.
“And in a wider, regional sense, taking in an arc stretching from Rosslare and taking towns like Ross, Carrick-on-Suir and Dungarvan into account, high-speed broadband access is part of a bigger strategy which our county towns require as they attempt to renew themselves. and you have to ask yourself the question (as this paper did in our March 15th edition): would those areas – Ross and Carrick in particular – be doing better if they’d had greater political representation at Dáil level over the years? I think most of us know the answer to that.”
For his part, Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath claimed that “large parts of rural Ireland which had been designated as zones awaiting commercial intervention are now on the verge of being re-categorised as areas requiring State intervention”.
“We will need clear and firm assurances from the Minister that this will in no way introduce further delays and instability with respect to the delivery of the National Broadband Plan,?” he said.
“In any event we will also need significantly more clarification around how our Local Authorities are being readied to deliver on their end of the rollout in conjunction with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.”
Deputy McGrath contends that there are over 40,000 “premises in Tipperary which need to be covered by the National Broadband Plan Intervention. Forty-nine per cent of these premises are within the NBP Intervention Area with the remaining 51 per cent to be covered by commercial operators.
Following last week’s announcement, Communications Minister Denis Naughten suggested that the NBP represented “a project that, for scale and significance, matches rural electrification…
“Access to secure, high-speed broadband is not a luxury. It is a fundamental necessity and essential to the social, economic and cultural wellbeing and prosperity of all our communities.” Rural Ireland awaits the roll-out.
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