Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Cut off and forgotten about

Rural spots require better web access -- it needs sorting now

FINAL STRAW: After being told that, for 'living in the middle of nowhere', broadband access would remain poor, Eircom said it would cost €2,000 to remove this telegraph pole blocking the farm entrance
FINAL STRAW: After being told that, for 'living in the middle of nowhere', broadband access would remain poor, Eircom said it would cost €2,000 to remove this telegraph pole blocking the farm entrance
Joe Barry

Joe Barry

I live within 25km of the centre of Dublin and 3km from the M4 motorway, yet when I recently asked an eircom employee why broadband was still unavailable in my locality he replied: "What do you expect when you live in the middle of nowhere?"

My county, Meath, is clearly a rural backwater in the minds of the people who run eircom. If that is their attitude, then what chance is there for the rest of rural Ireland where people struggle to work from home and run small enterprises?

A friend who owns a successful photographic company moved his office from Dublin to his home near Kilcock, Co Kildare, a few years ago to avoid the daily commute. Until recently he managed with the services of one of the private wireless broadband companies but, due to problems at their local station, they are currently unable to supply a service in the Maynooth/Kilcock area.

Like me, despite living in the commuter belt of Dublin city, he cannot get eircom broadband and he and his staff may soon have to move back to the city.

In the past, you will have read in this column about the difficulty of obtaining broadband in rural Ireland but, in the intervening years, little has changed. Despite all the promises and ministerial announcements, the fact remains that broadband is still unavailable for thousands of rural homes and businesses.

It is difficult not to get angry when we hear and see the daily adverts for broadband on the radio, TV and in newspapers. Who do these people think they are kidding? If we are to generate local employment and help small firms to function properly then we must install a proper national phone network.

I thought of writing to my local TDs and asking them how they feel about representing a constituency that is considered to be "the middle of nowhere". It would be nice to know what our Minister for Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, thinks.

The failure of eircom to give us a proper service is a disgrace and one wonders how Mary O'Rourke and her fellow politicians now feel about the selling off of our national phone company. To see how bad things are just take a drive on any country road and look at the tangle of wires strung along branches and lying in roadside ditches. Why was this allowed to happen? How can the linesmen, who struggle to keep us all connected, function with this appalling third-world set up? No wonder jobs are being lost daily as firms move abroad to countries with proper communication facilities.

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Virtually every farm and country home has a computer where sending and receiving information is an essential part of modern living. School children use the internet daily, and most of the interaction between suppliers and customers now takes place via email. Sending and receiving large files and images requires broadband. The alternative is to print off documents and get into your car and drive, perhaps halfway across Ireland, in order to meet deadlines. That says a lot about our so-called 'smart economy'.

With broadband we can meet our customers' needs. Without proper internet access we are consigned to a sort of limbo when businesses we are looking to promote are struggling to function. Our own firewood firm depends on the internet for 90pc of the calls we receive from customers, as do the other enterprises based at our home.

Our farm and the two other businesses provide employment for 10 people, including myself and my son, yet eircom does not seem to think this warrants access to broadband.

The gentleman who arrived from eircom to view our site was driving a large and expensive car. Clearly eircom must pay their staff extremely well if they can drive such cars, and I apologise for dragging him to "the middle of nowhere" in his shiny and costly vehicle.

He also told me that to move a pole that is blocking access to our entrance -- a distance of around two metres -- would cost me €2,000 -- but even then I would still have no broadband.

Someone should remind him and his bosses that without the employment generated by small rural firms, even more young people will emigrate.

Eircom and others of its ilk need to quickly get off their backsides and join the real world. If they don't, more rural jobs will vanish as businesses relocate to areas where employment is valued.

Irish Independent