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Sunday 21 September 2014

Locals forced to log on in graveyard

Aileen Hahessy and Conor Kane

Published 11/09/2009 | 00:00

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Locals Gina Hetherington, Carole Shinkwin, and John Cassidy connect to the internet using their laptops and mobile broadband at Kilbride cemetery

RESIDENTS of one village starved of reliable broadband had their prayers answered when they discovered a local graveyard five miles away got a good signal.

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But businesspeople in Mullinahone, near the Tipperary/Kilkenny border, are still angry that their village is so poorly served that they have travel to Kilbride cemetery several times a week to download material from the internet and to send emails.

The cemetery is located within the Vodafone broadband coverage area for nearby Callan town.

Poor mobile phone coverage is also driving Mullinahone's business community and residents to despair.

A petition calling for broadband and improved mobile phone coverage in the area was set up last week and has already collected about 300 names.

Petition organiser Gina Hetherington said it will be submitted to Communications Minister Eamon Ryan.

Mullinahone isn't included in the €223m National Broadband Scheme (NBS) that is rolling out high-speed internet in rural areas.

Ms Hetherington said the lack of mobile phone and broadband coverage is seriously hampering the day-to-day running of her business.

She drives the three-and-a-half miles to Kilbride Cemetery several times a week to access e-mails and the internet.

"At 10.30am this morning I started to download e-mail messages at home and gave up at 2.20pm. Now here at the cemetery I have downloaded 13 messages in a minute.

"It's as if we were out in Alaska. Actually, a friend of mine, who lives in Lapland has better broadband service than we have. How crazy is that?"

Mullinahone is not included in the NBS, according to the Department of Communications.

A statement said: "In designing the NBS, which was approved by the EU Commission, the department needed to strike a balance between reaching as many unserved areas as possible and minimising the impact of the scheme on businesses already providing broadband in rural areas, minimising market distortion in accordance with EU state aid rules."

There is one provider besides Vodafone serving Mullinahone.

But Gina Hetherington said locals are wary about availing of broadband services outside of any national scheme because private companies providing internet connections sometimes go out of business.

Vodafone said it provided the best mobile phone service in Mullinahone but it is a challenging region due to low population density and topography.

The company said it's in discussions with ComReg on the matter.

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