Response to rural broadband ‘unsatisfactory’, as farms and businesses suffer

The government’s response to rural broadband issues has been “unsatisfactory” as farms, households and businesses continue to suffer, according to TD Holly Cairns.

The Social Democrats’ spokesperson for rural and community development is calling on new ministers, particularly Minister for Climate Action, Communication Networks and Transport Eamon Ryan to prioritise rural broadband.

Issues with the quality of broadband in rural areas have been evident over the last number of months, as many people around the country found themselves having to adapt to working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rural isolation and inability to work

According to deputy Cairns, people experienced profound isolation and the inability to work or study at home due to broadband issues during the pandemic and she feels that, if this continues, it will be the end of rural Ireland.

“Every week I get several calls and messages about the poor or non-existent broadband connections and I get unsatisfactory replies from government,” she said.

If we want people to live and stay in rural areas, we need immediate action.

“Families can’t video-call their loved ones, students are unable to participate in school and college and people working from home are working in church car-parks.”

Deputy Cairns said she is concerned about the low number of rural TDs in cabinet, and that the relegation of rural and community development as a section of the Department of Social Protection is not appropriate, due to the large size of the department.

However, deputy Cairns said she will ensure that rural issues are not “let slip”.

National Broadband Ireland contractors are currently surveying sites as they prepare to rollout the National Broadband Plan.

Since January, around 40,000 premises in the country have been surveyed in counties Cork, Galway, Limerick, Cavan, Wexford and Westmeath  – and contractors are currently on the ground in Kerry, Wicklow, Kildare, Roscommon and Monaghan.

The Broadband Connection Point project, which aims to provide public access to high-speed internet in communal places, is due to have its first outlet available in August/September of this year.