Slow rollout For High Speed broadband in Meath

By Eoin Ryan, Sorcha Rose Mc Groarty

With more than a fifth of homes in Meath waiting on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) to provide them with broadband, not one household has been connected. This plan first began back in 2012, and after 9 years of waiting residents have to wait several more before they could expect fast internet speeds.

Only 51 per cent of the 20,000 homes and businesses in Meath awaiting broadband are due to be connected by the end of 2024, according to estimates.

Many members of the public have been waiting years to get high speed broadband in their homes. Because of this they are reluctant to be hopeful when it comes to the rollout of these schemes.

“Decent broadband is practically a human right in the modern world”

Ray Walsh, a lecturer in DCU who had to teach students online last year, lives in a complete blackspot for broadband. Walsh is barely getting 2 MB a second at the best of times which is hardly even enough to stream a youtube video or a show on netflix.

However, both of his neighbours only a stone’s throw away are getting upwards of 70 MB a second, and there is even a fibre broadband connection at the end of their road, but Ray and his household cannot get access to it.

“Decent broadband is practically a human right in the modern world,” said Ray. “Its a requirement for education.”

Ray spoke about trying to work from home during the early part of the pandemic, and the struggles he had with trying to run online lectures.

Due to his lack of broadband, he was virtually unable to run any live classes, leaving him to pre-record lectures and upload them at a very slow speed. It left him struggling to run classes as he would if he could teach students face to face.

Ray Walsh has been waiting on the broadband for rural areas rollout plan for the past 8 years, while only living an hour outside of dublin.

“It’s become part of the social fibre,” said Mr Walsh, referring to how in the modern world much of our socialisation is done through the internet. This has become especially prevalent since the start of restrictions in ireland.

Councillors expressed frustration at the process during a presentation by National Broadband Ireland updating Meath County Council on events.

Cllr Damien O’Reilly said councillors were passing on anger felt by Meath residents finding out they have to wait until 2026 before they are connected.

In Meath,some 23 percent of all premises fall into the intervention area and by the end of last year, just half of these homes had been surveyed.

NBI said they expect to have 2,640 premises ready for connection in the county by the end of this year.

“Future delays will be inexcusable. The plan needs to get back on track.”

Sinn Fein TD Darren O’Rourke said “The National Broadband Plan is undoubtedly complex but the responsibility for its rollout lies with NBI and they are well paid for their services.”

“I do welcome the fact that NBI say that some of the earlier barriers to smooth rollout such as engagement with local authorities and rules regarding polling have been largely addressed, but they don’t account for all of the delays,” O’Rourke continued.

“Future delays will be inexcusable. The plan needs to get back on track.”

Intervention from ComReg, the general communications regulator for Ireland, may be necessary. They are also exploring new “self-install” technology that may help with the process, but there have been very few mentions of what this is exactly.

295,000 homes have been surveyed across Ireland, but only 6,270 have been connected with 1,377 pending. Connections have been made in 18 of 26 counties planned, but none in Meath.

Work is already underway in Meath East and outskirts of Drogheda,part of the Drogheda Deployment area involving 2,622 homes due to be connected between April and June this year. Work on Dunboyne and Clonee covering 800 premises, is the only other area with work commencing this year and due to be finished between March and May 2023.

Last year National Broadband Ireland cut its end-of-January target from 115,000 to 60,000 and recently said it would not meet this new target until the end of March. NBI has blamed the slow rollout of the project on restrictions throughout the past two years.

The poor state of Eir’s existing telecommunications infrastructure is emerging as another main reason for delays in the NBP rollout. Eir is to earn around €900 million in rent, more than a third of the €2.9 billion State subsidy, from this plan for use of its poles and ducts. Eir exited the NBP process half way through citing problems regarding the funds involved.

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