‘Fast reliable broadband as important as electricity supply’

Fast reliable broadband is as important as uninterrupted electricity supply, according to Kilkenny county councillor Mary Hilda Cavanagh.

She said that any online work associated with the management of the family beef farm is extremely difficult because their broadband signal and strength is ‘appalling’ at present.

She looks forward, she said, to the boost the National Broadband Plan and survey, design and digitisation work done by local firm, entegro, will bring to her neighbours and the community of Galmoy; Crosspatrick; Johnstown; Urlingford; Gathabawn; Tullaroan; Freshford; and further afield.

As well as being a county councillor since 1974, Cllr Cavanagh is on a number of boards, including Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and the Carlow-Kilkenny Education and Training Board (ETB).

“Any interviews or conference calls on Teams and other video conferencing apps generally can’t be done from home. I’ve to go into Colaiste Mhuire for interviews because I need a guaranteed reliable service,” she said.

“All contact with government departments, including the department of agriculture correspondence, is now done online, as is banking and management of general utilities. It’s the same for other businesses and individuals.

Commuters

“Since Covid struck it’s more acceptable than ever to work and study from home.

“And it’s been very good for people, particularly those from this area who up to now have been forced into their cars early in the morning and have to face a long commute each day,” said Cllr Cavanagh, who grew up on a mixed farm.

She and her husband Eddie are beef producers who buy in and finish on grass, selling into Dawn Meats in Rathdowney.

Cllr Cavanagh said the slowness of the current situation in this area of north Kilkenny “would have you pulling your hair out” and must be highly frustrating for those working from home who depended on a reliable service.

“At the moment students, whether primary or secondary, find it extremely difficult to do their research. Third level students are receiving all their lectures online and submitting their work online. The National Broadband Plan can’t come fast enough to north Kilkenny,” she said.

“We’re very fortunate that our neighbour, Jim Doyle, and his company, entegro, are doing the survey and design work which form the critical foundation work for the National Broadband Plan.

“My understanding from him is that they’ve now completed their assessment of Kilkenny city and 20km outside of it as well as Johnstown and the surrounding hinterland. We anxiously await news of when we’ll be connected and get the service we need, even though we understand this is not part of entegro’s role.

“We look forward to the service and the work done by entegro, the other National Broadband Plan contractors and the government coming to fruition as soon as possible,” said Cllr. Cavanagh. Fast reliable broadband would totally transform the area, changing life in north Kilkenny for generations to come, for the better, she contended.

Blended learning the future

“People now have the option to work from home. I can’t ever see people going back into big offices in cities five days a week or students being on campus full-time.

“Blended learning is the future for Irish third and possibly second level education. As of now, I don’t ever envisage students attending college five days a week.

Those formerly confined to offices will work remotely at least part of the week. This will have a phenomenal impact on their own lives, on the lives of their families and their communities. People will be more inclined to shop local, to support local and socialise locally and this can only create positive ripples throughout their own community.

“Because people in this area are working more from home they’re shopping in the local corner shop or supermarket more, rather than in larger multiples close to their former workplace.

“They’re more likely to support the local butcher, the local baker and be more involved in their community. We’ve all gained a greater appreciation of the smaller retailers on our doorsteps in these times of uncertainty. Long may it continue,” Cllr Cavanagh said.

Survey work underway in Galmoy in North Kilkenny by entegro as work progresses on the delivery of the National Broadband Plan

She commended Jim Doyle and the entegro team. “Jim left Ireland for the UK and built up an unrivalled reputation in his industry, working for over 30 years as a telecoms entrepreneur.

“We’re very fortunate that Jim and Pauline Doyle chose Kilkenny as the base for the company headquarters and that they built their family home here in Galmoy. We’re thrilled to have Jim and Pauline in Ireland, in Kilkenny and more importantly, in this north Kilkenny community. We anxiously await better broadband for this area – whenever that will come.”