Difficulties faced by some workers with their broadband speeds and access whilst working remotely during the COVID19 outbreak emphasise the obvious and urgent need for greater broadband connectivity in rural Ireland, according to Fine Gael TD, John Paul Phelan.
The TD highlighted this as proof of why Fine Gael’s National Broadband Plan is so badly needed on the ground in rural Ireland, particularly in rural Kilkenny, and criticised the Green Party in particular whose leader, Eamon Ryan, said last year that it was unfairly "advantaging" rural homes.
Deputy Phelan said: “Many people are now working from home who never would have done so previously. Initially it was challenging to come to terms with new workplace surroundings and with all the technological requirements needed at home. However, for the most part, as things have settled down during the outbreak, workers have been able to work from home more easily and some report they are finding it beneficial.
“As a result, there is now a new opportunity for businesses and for families alike to experience a better work/life balance when COVID-19 subsides and when work returns to normal. I believe this will be one of the very few positives Irish society will gain from this challenging time and the ‘new normal’ period ahead.
“This experience has also helped people to re-consider living in rural Ireland and working from home. However, without high speed broadband access available to them this would be next to impossible.
“We need the National Broadband Plan fast-tracked now and we need to work together to ensure that Kilkenny isn’t left down the pecking order – that we work together to ensure it might even become Ireland’s first digital county.
"My fear is that larger counties with a rural hinterland such as Cork, Kerry and Wicklow would be cherry-picked first and that we would have to wait for years for the service we so urgently need.
“A number of people have contacted me to highlight their concerns with lack of access and very slow speeds in certain areas outside of the Commercial Areas and inside the State Intervention Area identified in the National Broadband Plan.
“Last year, we witnessed the turning of our National Broadband Plan into a political football by Fianna Fail and the Greens and others who are now calling for greater access across the country. At times its very viability was called into question. Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan, went so far as to say the Plan was “advantaging” rural homes and went on to complain that it was “giving a better deal to rural Ireland than to my constituents.”
“Now more than ever we see that the National Broadband Plan must be delivered. And fast. It’s not a luxury anymore. It’s an absolute necessity – particularly if our rural towns and villages are to survive. Broadband access is as important today as electricity was to the home sixty years ago.”