By: Deputy Kathleen Funchion
Sinn Fein TD for Kilkenny Carlow
IN May 2019, the Government announced the NBP detailing how rural Ireland would be connected to high-speed broadband over the next six-seven years. In November of that year, it signed a contract with National Broadband Ireland (NBI) to plan, develop and operate a fibre-based broadband service within an Intervention Area including up to 544,000 homes, farms, schools and businesses.
In November 2020 NBI informed of their plans to technically and commercially assess the plans to accelerate the NBP. This included consideration of the ESB network where possible.
In January the Remote Working Strategy was published by the Tánaiste. Actions included, “the provision of high-speed broadband to all parts of Ireland”, and “Mapping and investing in a network of remote working hubs across Ireland”.
The Government has committed to accelerating the NBP to be delivered in four-five years.
There have already been delays to the rollout of the NBP with Covid and NBI have been working to mitigate these where possible, they can’t be any further delays.
Sinn Fein believe that these difficulties could be easily solved with streamlined approach by Government.
We are very aware that problems occur during operations. One of the difficulties is the fact that fresh planning has to be continually lodged. If that planning is with Transport Infrastructure Ireland, it could take four to eight weeks. If it is with the local authority, it could be anywhere from two days to eight weeks. That is not good enough and it is holding the whole roll out up.
There are 48,616 premises in Kilkenny 18,300 are in the intervention area, representing 38% of the county
NBI carry out the work in three phases, survey, design & build – surveying is underway and planned in townlands in Kilkenny, but the network build isn’t in progress in Kilkenny. You can view the exact townlands at – https://nbi.ie/rollout-plan/
Within the Deployment Areas with surveying underway the anticipated connection date is between July-December 2022.
In the interim until the NBP is rolled out, the Government have announced Broadband Connection Points (or BCPs), public locations selected to receive high-speed connectivity. In Kilkenny there’s 6 BCPs live as of 26th January – Kilkenny have all 6 BCPS connected, there is scope for Local Authority’s to make further applications.
The Government are exploring the use of BCPs as educational settings, as locations for eHealth services and as locations for the creative arts. These will be covered under the additional €5 million has been allocated to the Town and Village Renewal Scheme for the development of remote working facilities at hubs and BCPs. But there’s still no announcement on details for these remote working hubs.
Separately, people can enter their Eircode on the NBI website, it will tell them whether they’re in the intervention area. If they are it will usually say whether surveying is in progress or give the anticipated date for connection.
There has been talk in the Transport and Communications Committee in terms of interim solutions for the households in rural areas who won’t be connected until the four-five-year mark. These discussion are still to take place and Sinn Fein are pushing for the Committee use its influence to bring about interim measures for rural areas that are in the immediate need of broadband coverage.
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