Monday 16 September 2019

Utter frustration as delay 'is stunting business growth in rural Ireland'

Supermac’s chief executive Pat McDonagh says that the Cabinet lacks business experience. Photo: Tony Gavin
Supermac’s chief executive Pat McDonagh says that the Cabinet lacks business experience. Photo: Tony Gavin

Alan O'Keeffe

Frustration is deepening in rural Ireland at the lack of action in approving the long-awaited National Broadband Plan.

Business people have warned the current lack of high-speed broadband is stunting development throughout rural Ireland.

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Although more towns in Ireland are getting connected to high-speed fibre networks, a great many people who work in those towns live in the surrounding countryside which remain 'no go' areas for reliable broadband.

Pat McDonagh, chief executive of the chain of 108 Supermac's restaurants, said there is a lack of business experience in Cabinet and the Government's failure to come to a decision was damaging rural Ireland.

"Cities will grow further while the rural areas continue to suffer… Where I live myself, the broadband is very slow," said the Co Galway resident.

"The problem is going to denude the population of country areas even more because people can't set up businesses, can't work from home, can't operate from areas at a time when it is so necessary to have broadband.

"In rural areas, no business person could consider opening a business if they have to depend on broadband. There is a lack of commercial reality at the top table of Government and in councils too.

"There are very few business people in the Cabinet and we are suffering because of it. With just one bidder left for the National Broadband Plan, it is not the best place to be," he said.

Ciaran King, strategic director of King and Moffatt building services, which employs 300 in Ireland and the UK, said it pays €8,000 a year for high-speed fibre broadband at its Carrick-on-Shannon headquarters.

It is a major problem that staff cannot use high-speed broadband in their homes in the large rural hinterland around the town. To do any flexitime work, they have to drive back to the office to log on, he said.

"In the evening time, the existing internet services slows down considerably in rural areas so any work-related internet communication requires returning to the office.

"It is a real problem when recruiting new staff," he said.

Conor Maher (49) owns The Oarsman gastro-pub in Carrick-on-Shannon and lives in Kilglass, Co Roscommon.

He had "fantastic" broadband in his home for six months but then provider Imagine withdrew the service from the catchment area.

"For those six months, I was able to stay in touch with my business from home, monitor the cameras and work on my laptop. It's devastating to lose it. So I'm shackled to the business again," he said.

"High-speed broadband is essential to allow people to work from home. It allows people to have a better family life instead of being absent from home using broadband elsewhere," he said.

Sunday Independent

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