ESTONIA and Finland have declared it a human right and yet people in parts of Kilkenny are still struggling to get broadband at even the most basic speeds with out resorting to expensive satellite based systems.
Last year the Minister for Communications, Eamon Ryan announced the completion of the 223m euro National Broadband Scheme in conjunction with 3. It was announced that broadband was now available in 99% of the country. The roll out of broadband is similar in scale and effect to the rural electrification scheme in the 1950's. Electricity finally arrived on Coney Island in Sligo in 2003 but it is hoped that broadband will be fully available within a more reasonable time frame.
There were 33 areas in Kilkenny that were designated as part of the National Broadband scheme in Kilkenny but people living with in those areas have had mixed results with the national scheme.
Joy Moore lives in Tullaroan and runs the Oldtown Hill Bakehouse which employs 17 people. Ms Moore had been try to get broadband to Tullaroan to for a number of years. She's signed petitions and talked to all the service providers but until recently she was driving in to the Kilkenny City Library to use the internet because Tullaroan was an internet black spot. "It was like the dark ages asking people to send in faxes, it certainly slowed us up in trying to develop the business."
Ms Moore said that the residents of Tullaroan signed petitions and complained but "people have got fed up of petitioning, you can't stay flogging a dead horse," she said.
The residents in Tullaroan had been promised by Eircom that the Oldtown exchange was on a waiting list and would be upgraded in March of last year, then they were told July. Eventually Ms Moore was told that due to the cost involved there were no plans to upgrade the Oldtown exchange. Fed up waiting for the infrastructure to be upgraded Ms Joy contacted premier broad band. Although the satellite based broadband that premier provide is 65 euro a month, Ms Joy said that you can see lots of little satellites on homes all over Tullaroan.
In Dunamaggan Trish Finnegan of Creative Catering has found that she has no access to the National Broadband Scheme or Eircom broadband as the land line as the Kells exchange hasn't been upgraded. Ms Finnegan had been promised that the National Broadband Scheme would cover her business by the September 14 but it didn't happen. "The council had to agree that it (National Broadband Scheme) was OK. Councillors should have highlighted areas that needed to have broadband rolled out to," she said. Ms Finnegan said that her limited access to broadband has hindered her business. She's had to ask people not to send her emails as downloading them takes so long, she can't use facebook for marketing as the access is too slow and when the network is busy she can't even send emails. "With the increase in web based business it has certainly had an effect," she said.
Eilish Gough from Mileeven Fine Foods in Owning Co Kilkenny said that she had understood that the Owning Piltown area would be included in the National Broadband Scheme. Ms Gough said "It is hard to sell an economy as an advanced economy, when you can't get a fairly basic services." Ms Gough has managed to get broadband in form a company called alpha wave, but at 70 euro a month its not cheap. Alpha wave had to be encouraged to come to Owning to provide a broadband service. "We needed to get a critical mass of people together to get broadband out to us" she said. Neighbours were ringing each other to try and sign each other up to the scheme. Ms Gough said she'll continue to support Alpha wave as they took the rick in providing the service when no one else would but she would like if there was some competition in the market.
In Baunfea the National Broadband Scheme delivered. Bernie McCoy said that 3 couldn't have been more helpful. Although Ms McCoy says the bandwidth could be better she had nothing but praise for 3. "The speed is only adequate but 3 have bent over backward to help us. They even put up a new mast in the area", she said. Despite this the braodband in the area is still not as fast as that provided in Kilkenny city but it's "100 times better than it was" according to Ms McCoy
It is clear that areas of Kilkenny are not being serviced under the national broadband scheme. A spokesperson for Eircom said that they intend to update two exchanges in Kilkenny in 2011. Both Oldtown and Coon well be upgraded but dates for when this will happen are not yet available. Eircom also confirmed that Johnswell and The Rower. The Spokesperson said "it is uneconomic for Eircom or any other operators in the market to do so. The Johnswell and The Rower exchanges may however be covered by the National Broadband Scheme, the tender for which was awarded to 3 Ireland."
The Department of Communications is satisfied that the National Broadband Scheme was completed fully and that they have been monitoring the speeds that all areas are meeting the specified contractual agreements.
If you would like to test the speed of your home internet log on to www.speedtest.net