‘Frustratingly Slow’ Roll Out Broadband Plan In Clare – McNamara

Clare T.D. Michael McNamara has expressed his disappointment at the “frustratingly slow” roll out of a high speed and future proofed broadband network across County Clare as part of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) State led Intervention.

Deputy McNamara was speaking ahead of a briefing by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) to Clare County Council this Monday (14 December) at which the CEO Peter Hendrick will outline the NBI’s deployment plan for Clare.

“I have been informed by NBI that properties in just four Clare locations, all in the southeast of the county, are expected to benefit from new fibre connections in 2021,” explained Deputy McNamara.

He continued, “Surveys have been completed in the areas of Cratloe, Ballycannan, Ballyglass and Cloghrea and NBI has informed me that indicative dates for fibre connections for premises in these areas, which are close to the border of Limerick, is mid-2021. Further surveys have recently commenced in the areas of Kilkishen, but NBI has said that deployment information is not yet available for this location. This low number of Clare communities scheduled for connection in 2021 is disappointing.”

“In a year that saw remote working becoming the norm across Clare, the long-standing issues associated with an inadequate broadband infrastructure has been keenly felt by many thousands of people,” stated Deputy McNamara. “Away from the large urban areas, Clare remains a broadband black hole. Internet access is either unaffordable for most households or it is simply unavailable. Businesses in rural areas cannot develop e-commerce while farmers are disadvantaged by poor broadband.”

He added, “As far back as 2007, I remember all the main parties pledging the deliver broadband to all homes within a few years. They claimed a broadband enabled nation is the future. Yet today, Ireland is only in 36th place globally in the rankings of broadband speeds and many homes remain off the grid.

“13 years later, it is a case of back to the future here in Clare. Many parts of the county remains offline and the latest update from NBI suggests the wait for a high speed and secure internet service will go on. This is damaging to businesses and heightens that sense among people living in rural Ireland that they are being left behind. The lack of quality connectivity is one of the reasons why we haven’t seen the same level of business investment in west and north Clare as in the rest of the county.

“There are a number of private wireless operators in Clare that have filled the gap somewhat, but they are charging exorbitant prices for standard and at times, unreliable broadband services.

“When the National Broadband Plan contract was signed in 2019, we were led to believe that we would be presented with a comprehensive and detailed schedule for delivery in this county. This plan has not yet materialised and I would hope that NBI’s CEO will provide clarity on the matter when he appears before members of Clare County Council in Ennis this coming Monday. The CEO should also address the scant level of information on the rollout being provided on the NBI website,” concluded Deputy McNamara.

In a written response to a Parliamentary Question issued by Deputy McNamara last week, National Broadband Ireland stated, “In County Clare, there are 69,225 premises of which 22,592 (33%) are within the intervention area for the National Broadband Plan. The deployment plan forecasts premises passed in all counties within the first 2 years and over 90% of premises in the State having access to high speed broadband within the next four years.

“Further details are available on specific areas in Clare through the NBI website which provides a facility for any premises within the intervention area to register their interest in being provided with deployment updates through its website www.nbi.ie. Individuals who register with this facility will receive regular updates on progress by NBI on delivering the network and specific updates related to their own premises when works are due to commence. I am aware that concerns have been raised regarding the level of information available on the deployment of the NBI network and I am advised that NBI is working to provide more detail on its website in this regard, with a rolling update on network build plans.”

“Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are a key element of the NBP providing high speed broadband in every county in advance of the roll out of the fibre to the home network. As of 20 November, 149 publicly accessible BCP sites have been installed by NBI, with 59 already connected to high speed broadband service. The remaining locations will be connected through service provider contracts managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development in the coming months. In Clare, Cree Community Centre, Loop Head Lighthouse and Michael Cusack Visitor Centre BCPs have been connected. A further BCP at Loughraney has had infrastructure installed by NBI and will be connected in the coming weeks

“Some 52 schools throughout Ireland have now had infrastructure installed by NBI, with 23 schools already connected to high speed broadband. In Clare, a number of schools including Shragh, Ennistymon and Stonehall National Schools are now connected as part of this initiative. My Department continues to work with Department of Education and Skills to prioritise the remaining schools to be connected over the term of the NBP. Further details can be found at https://nbi.ie/bcp-locations/,” added the NBI response.