BY JACKIE KEOGH
THE delay in the rollout of broadband is ‘a disaster for rural areas,’ according to Sinn Féin Cllr Paul Hayes.
The councillor tabled a motion at a meeting of Cork County Council demanding that the Department of Communications ‘immediately reverse’ its decision to suspend the provision of high speed broadband in rural areas.
‘There is a lot of good work being done by the Council and other agencies – national and voluntary – but we are being hamstrung by the lack of a decent broadband infrastructure,’ he said.
‘Farmers, who have to file every form online, are having to drive to the nearest village to try and get a broadband connection,’ he said.
‘Tourism too – one of the biggest industries in West Cork – is being hindered by the lack of connectivity because they are unable to take online bookings.’
He said the Government announcement that the rural broadband scheme won’t be stared until the end of 2017 and completed until 2022 would have a major impact on individuals, business and communities as a whole.
Secondary school and university school students are finding it ‘almost impossible,’ he added, to complete assignments without access to online research tools.
Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan said it is also affecting West Cork’s ability to conduct and attract new business because ‘access to good broadband is one of the top requirements of any business.’
Cllr Rachel McCarthy (SF) said: ‘The lack of broadband was the hot topic on the doorstep when canvassing before the election.’ And she reminded the Council administration that towns like Bandon have already lost out on job opportunities because businesses have decided to relocate to the city.
Cllr Danny Collins (NP) suggested that the Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Heather Humphreys, and the new Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten, should be invited to West Cork where they can see for themselves that broadband is ‘non-existent in a lot of areas.’
Cllr Alan Coleman (Ind) said the delay in funding the rollout of broadband is ‘outrageous’.
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) suggested ‘taking a stand and making a strong claim for funding because that is all that is holding this up.’
The delay in roll-out of broadband was first revealed in The Southern Star after a meeting in Kilmacsimon in 2014 heard there were issues with the schedule.