BY EMMA CONNOLLY
& KIERAN O’MAHONY
REMOTE working is a daily struggle for a group of Gaggin residents due to their substandard broadband connections.
Since the pandemic hit in March, a group of professionals from the area have been forced to park outside St Patrick’s Church in Bandon and work from their cars for as long as their laptop batteries allow.
But now after three months they say the physical and mental strain is taking its toll and they are demanding government action on rural broadband.
Despite its central location between Bandon and Clonakilty, around 100 households in a valley in Gaggin have to make do with average download speeds of 0.2mbps and an upload speed of 0.01mbps. Bingeing on Netflix wasn’t an option for them during lockdown, it can take 30 seconds or more to even open a file and Skype calls aren’t possible. The issue was raised recently at council level by FF Cllr Gillian Coughlan who said that around 14% of the county is in the amber broadband zone, which means providers have indicated it is not commercially viable to bring internet to the area.
That includes Gaggin and last year its community hall was included on a list of 300 towns and villages across Ireland to get high-speed internet hubs while they await the arrival of the National Broadband Plan. At the time it was reported this would happen in the second quarter of this year. No progress has been made.
Maeve O’Sullivan-Kennedy, who works in financial services, said the situation is now causing the community ‘serious distress’ and with a fibre cable just 2km away they can’t understand why they have to suffer.
Her neighbour James O’Regan said the hardest part of his job as an IT consultant is his poor internet connection and if things don’t improve he may move. Tony Cullinane who works in sales said: ‘The stress this causes is incredible – it’s on your mind constantly.’
Connonagh near Leap is another internet black spot. Robert Hill, who works remotely for Dell EMC as a software analyst said if he lived just 500m away he’d have 100mbps fibre broadband, while on a good day he has 5mbps.
‘Broadband is a necessity not a luxury. In this day and age it has to be regarded as a basic utility like water and electricity,’ he said.
Maeve added: ‘The National Broadband Plan stalls time and time again, we need the government to urgently provide measures for our area so we can work from home instead of our cars.’
Cork South West TD Christopher O’Sullivan (FF) said he was aware of the long list of missed deadlines in the rollout of rural broadband and said it was time to deliver.