The light blue areas are those that have now been added to Eir's plans for commercial provision by end of next year
More than 7,300 rural premises in Kilkenny have been added to areas where high speed broadband will be available by the end of next year, but that still leaves almost 18,000 local premises in the so-called ‘intervention area’ who may be waiting considerably longer for the National Broadband Plan (NBP) to be rolled out.
Perhaps most frustratingly for these ‘intervention’ places (amber coloured in the map) — which account for about 38% of premises in the county — they may be located in close proximity to other premises where good broadband is available.
The light blue areas indicate those recently added to Eir’s plans for commercial broadband provision by end of next year, and there are 300,000 of them nationally (7,304 in Kilkenny).
With no date yet forthcoming on when a contract for the NBP will be awarded, local councillors have been expressing considerable vexation with how long the whole process is taking.
At a meeting last week of the Piltown Municipal District, Kilkenny’s broadband officer Steve Coverdale updated them on the situation. He said that the Department was expecting more detailed solutions from the three National Broadband Plan bidders by September 29, however, no award date has yet been confirmed for the tender.
The three suppliers shortlisted for the State intervention contract are Eir, Enet, and SIRO (a joint venture between the ESB and Vodafone).
As part of the rollout, an interim measure known as ‘SCAH’ will also be introduced. These will be ‘hubs’ located in parts of the county in the amber area where broadband may not be installed until a few years after the start of the rollout. These sites will be funded by the Department, and provide some access for locals so they don’t have to travel as far as they might presently.
“It’s more of a ‘stop-gap’,” Mr Coverdale told members.
Cllr Pat Dunphy said it was clear that lack of broadband, and the manner in which it is currently being rolled out, is a huge problem for many people.
“They might go as far as here, and then there’s ten houses left at the end of the road,” he said. "They’ll just tell you ‘no’."
Cllr Eamon Aylward said it seemed to him, that by giving Eir license to pick and choose more premises to complete commercially outside the tender, everyone else may be waiting a long time.
“Those 300,000 will be the easiest, cheapest to get to and then there’s the rest left,” he said.
Senior executive officer Kevin Hanley said the tender was subject to EU regulations on State intervention, and the State can’t intervene in until the market has failed.
Cllr Melissa O’ Neill said she understood things took time, but it was frustrating to have to explain to people that one neighbour had broadband, but another down the road might not for years. She proposed writing to the Department to see if the procurement process could be at all hastened.
This proposal was seconded by Cllr Dunphy.
“It’s a disaster to be quite honest,” he said.
“The National Broadband Plan is not getting going at all. I know you can’t do anything about it, but maybe you can pass [that message] back.”