Councillors from all corners of Kilkenny voiced their concerns over poor broadband at the February meeting of Kilkenny County Council.
A presentation was made at the member by TJ Malone of National Broadband Ireland of the rollout of the National Broadband Plan and its impact on the city and county. Mr Malone spoke of the ‘promise to build a high speed network that will be futureproofed for the generations to come’.
“We need to eliminate any digital divide that is there,” he said and informed the members that a survey has now been completed in Kilkenny.
The findings of the survey reveal that there are 18,300 premises in Kilkenny without access to high-speed broadband.
Mr Malone told the meeting that the National Broadband Plan promises ‘to deliver a network that will be a fit for future generations’.
“It will empower all service providers in Ireland with access to a future-proofed wholesale, open access network.
Cllr Martin Brett stressed the urgency of the situation especially in the current environment with ‘so many people working from home’.
Cllr Pat Fitzpatrick asked if there is any way of expediting the rollout while Cllr John Brennan said that action is urgently needed.
“I know of one business who can’t recruit more workers because of the lack of broadband,” he said.
Cllr Pat O’Neill said that while it was great to get an update he stressed that broadband is ‘a huge issue’.
“Covid has made this as big as rural electrification,” he said.
Cllr Fidelis Doherty told the meeting that there are ‘people at risk of losing jobs over broadband’.
Cllr Maria Dollard said that ‘Covid has highlighted the digital affluence and digital poverty that exists,” she said adding that it had also raised the possibility of ‘co-working hubs’ with additional broadband points.
Cllr Tomas Breatnach said that the presentation ‘should be the start of a process’ and asked that members get a report in six months time and another presentation in a year’s time.
Cllr Matt Doran asked for ‘detailed timeframe’ for the rollout. Mr Pat O’Toole of the National Broadband Plan replied that they were ‘cautious of putting out delivery dates’.
“We need to leave ourselves flexibility in case we run into trouble,” he said.
Meanwhile Cllr Peter ‘Chap’ Cleere said that ‘rural Ireland has no future unless there is fibre in every home’.
“I had a woman crying on the phone because she was trying to homeschool and had no access.”
Cllr Ger Frisby told the meeting said that ‘a hub is needed for every parish’.
Cathaoirleach, Andrew McGuinness remarked that ‘people don’t want to be left behind’.
“The pandemic has taught us the importance of having good internet access,” he added.
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