Fibre sparks life back into town decimated by slump
Claremorris fights back as it is chosen for investment by enet
A WESTERN town which was decimated by the recession has been chosen as the first 'fibre town' for business.
Claremorris in Co Mayo saw almost a third of businesses close down during the economic slump.
However, the town has now been chosen for a major investment by enet, which will see it become the first 250Mbs fibre broadband town.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte will announce the enet investment today in Claremorris.
Enet is the 'open access' network operator, which currently operates and manages the State's fibre-optic infrastructure known as the Metropolitan Area Network or MANs.
And as optimism grows and businesses return to the town, the unveiling of fibre broadband has been welcomed by business owners.
Jimmy Flynn, chairman of Claremorris Chamber of Commerce, said the service would attract more business to the town. He said the chamber secured the service for two large companies three years ago and "they would not have survived here without it".
"Now it will be available to every shop and cafe in the town. This will make our job as a chamber easy, we have a digital motorway into the heart of the town," he said.
Claremorris has begun fighting back, Mr Flynn said, with almost 200 businesses now employing 1,200 people. "We were badly hit by the recession. But a lot of businesses that had closed are reopening.
"Claremorris was always at a geographical disadvantage but this will allow us to compete for start-up companies and small IT companies. It's a significant game changer."
While the new service will cost businesses between €70 and €256 a month, they say it has opened up the option of expansion. Mr Flynn said the new service would also allow him to expand his own pharmacy business.
"It will be very, very positive for business. We have been one of the pilot businesses for the past nine months and I've seen first hand how it speeds up business on a daily basis," he said.
Mr Flynn has been able to grow the photo publishing side of his business as a result of the fast speeds which have also increased the efficiency of dealing with the HSE's online payments for pharmacy customers.
James Kean, who runs an electrical, gardening and DIY shop in the town, is also optimistic: "We have a website but not an online presence. We would look at that again now because we will be able to upload and download quickly. A lot of our competitors have online shops and a lot of people are using them, so purchasing power is changing. People still want bricks and mortar but a lot of research is done online and then they go in to buy."
Tony Phelan, who runs an auto parts store, said: "The biggest part of our business has been sourcing parts and that means constantly being online. My staff are rarely off the computer but it can be very frustrating when it stalls, slows down or breaks completely. This will make a major difference to how quickly I can source parts for my clients," he said.
An enet spokesman said the service would be rolled out in other towns: "We are currently engaged with a number of local authorities and business groups to determine where to complete future rollouts."
While enet is the network financier, builder and operator of the project, the networks it operates are 'open access', meaning any telecom operator can use them to offer services.