By BRIAN MOORE
THE infrastructure needed to supply high speed broadband to Sherkin and Heir Islands is not in place, and further investment is needed to carry out the costly work.
With work to lay new telephone cables to the islands about to get underway, local councillors have called on communications provider, Eir, to kill two birds with one stone and also provide them with high-speed fibre broadband.
However, an Eir spokesman said the necessary infrastructure was not in place to allow it.
As a result of Storm Ophelia, the underwater telephone cable to the communities living and working on Sherkin and Heir Island was destroyed, leaving residents without landline telephone services.
Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) said at a recent meeting of the Municipal District Committee in Skibbereen: ‘This is a perfect opportunity for Eir to provide the islands with high-speed broadband as they are earmarked for fibre broadband as part of the National Broadband Plan (NBP).
‘With the work to reconnect the islands with landline telephone services about to begin, surely it makes sense to do the job in one go and not have to come back and start again.’
Councillors also echoed the calls from their colleagues from the Bandon/Kinsale district to invite representatives from Eir to a meeting so the company could update them on the current status of providing high-speed broadband to rural areas in West Cork.
Cllr Pat Murphy (FF) said: ‘It is important that we know what is going on with the rollout of broadband to the communities in West Cork and especially on the peninsulas and islands.’
However, a spokesman for Eir said that while providing Sherkin and Heir with fibre broadband is part of the NBP, the necessary infrastructure is not in place now to allow the laying of cables.
‘The provision of high speed broadband to both Sherkin and Heir Island will be covered by the NBP and not by Eir’s commercial fibre rollout,’ Paul Bradley of Eir said.
‘Telecommunications services to both island are provided from exchanges/cabinets located on the mainland,’ he added.
‘Therefore, the suggestion to upgrade the existing copper subterranean cables serving the islands with a subterranean fibre cable will not in itself provide high speed broadband on the islands.
‘Further infrastructure investments are required in order to provide high speed broadband. This includes upgrading and replacing the copper cables that provide the current services and installing new equipment on the island to assist in the delivery of high speed broadband.
‘The cost of conducting this work is high and unfortunately this means that the addresses on the island fall under the NBP rather than Eir’s commercial rollout,’ Mr Bradley said.