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It’s easier than you think to get connected in West Cork

November 13th, 2020 11:53 AM

By Siobhan Cronin

Brendan and Jane Hurley of Digital Forge: It’s worth checking out some of the smaller providers around West Cork if the bigger firms say they can’t connect you. (Photo: Emma Jervis)

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This article originally appeared in our 28-page DREAM HOMES WEST CORK magazine. Dream Homes West Cork can be downloaded for free here.

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If you’re planning on moving to West Cork, chances are there will be some element of work or career involved in your move.

According to local estate agents, one of the first questions that prospective buyers ask is: ‘What is the broadband like?’

Like any of the outlying areas of Ireland, and especially the West, there are issues with broadband blackspots in West Cork.

And the slow delivery of the national broadband plan doesn’t fill anyone with much optimism that things will get better anytime soon.

But, as a result, the community of West Cork has decided to get up and sort it for themselves.

The most obvious manifestation of this is probably the hugely successful but privately-funded Ludgate digital hub in Skibbereen.

With the likes of Google’s Ronan Harris, Vodafone ceo Anne O’Leary, Sean O’Driscoll of Glen Dimplex, Brian McCarthy of Fexco and RTE director general Dee Forbes all on the board of directors (among others), well it could hardly fail!

It has now become so successful that it is in the process of fitting out two more locations in the town, outside of its Townshend Street headquarters.

The 1GB broadband connection, thanks to Vodafone, has made a huge difference to people wanting hot-desking facilities on occasion, or to smaller firms wanting to book out entire rooms.

Spearline, which now employs over 50 staff at a standalone site in Skibbereen, started out at Ludgate, showing the value of such digital hubs for start-ups and SMEs.

The Ludgate model has been copied all around the country, but there are also plenty of ‘hubs’ around West Cork, too, inspired by the Skibbereen project.

Bantry Bayworks, situated over the new SuperValu in the town, and overlooking the stunning harbour, has just opened.

It is fully equipped with high-speed broadband and 16 spaces for individuals who want to rent a desk, an office for meetings and a secure soundproof booth for phone calls.

There’s also the 1GB Brookpark digital hub in Dunmanway with hot desks and meeting rooms, which opened in 2018, and there are 15 desks at the brand new Kinsale Digital Hub, an initiative from local accountancy firm Fitzgerald and Partners.

Of course, Cork County Council might feel hard done by with all these new ‘digital hubs’ since they were already ahead of the pack, having rolled out their wonderful ‘e-centres’ across the region several years ago.

The e-centres initiative is a network of community enterprise centres that were established by Cork County Council in partnership with local business organisations and State enterprise agencies, to support start-ups, entrepreneurs and remote workers among others, in order to provide dedicated co-working facilities such as hot-desking, offices, training centres, conference and meeting facilities and other services to support businesses and communities in the Cork region.

In their e-centres, businesses build contacts, reducing the isolation often felt when starting and running a business.

The Council’s several West Cork centres offer a professional environment for businesses with no long term commitments and the ability to plan finances in advance with all-inclusive rates.

Cork County Council has joined with Ludgate to offer its facilities from the Skibbereen hub, but it also has well equipped e-centres in Bandon, Bantry, Macroom, Goleen and on Bere Island, as well as others around the county.

The perceived cost of renting a desk in an e-centre or digital hub often puts people off, but prices are as reasonable as €10-€20 a day for most of those mentioned above, and that comes with top quality office and technology options, and often parking and kitchen facilities too.

Before you start reaching for the digital hub option, it’s also worth checking out some of the smaller suppliers of broadband in the region, if the main players are not able to facilitate you.

Some local firms like Digital Forge in Schull and Rapid Broadband in Rosscarbery can very often offer solutions where the bigger firms won’t venture, so it’s worth Googling all the suppliers in your area before you give up on getting a good connection at home.

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