The roll-out of high-speed broadband to over 14,437 premises in Wicklow has moved one step closer, as the Government announced that work to finalise the contract for the National Broadband Plan (NBP) is well progressed (report here). This is welcome news for the many homes and business premises in County Wicklow which are adversely affected by lack of broadband and many of which have been lobbying their local representatives for years to get the same services as their counterparts in the capital and major cities around the country. The high-speed broadband roll out will cover the remaining 22% of premises in the county.
Communications Minister Richard Bruton recently told the Cabinet on Wednesday that ‘it is crucial that we move to sign the contract so that the one million people who today are without access, are not left behind‘. National Broadband Ireland (NBI) are the Preferred Bidder for the contract, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has already indicated that he would like to have the contract signed by the National Ploughing Championships in mid-September this year. The first homes could be passed and connected by early autumn next year once the contract is closed.
Wicklow will receive an investment of €57 million to provide fibre broadband to homes in the Intervention Area (IA). This is a mapped area of rural Ireland where high-speed broadband is currently not commercially available and it encompasses over half a million premises, 56,000 farms and 44,000 businesses. In Wicklow this includes areas such as Tinahely, Ashford, Glencree and Blessington. In total, 22% of all premises in Wicklow will be passed and eligible for connection. The high-speed broadband is set to revolutionise working and home life for many who have had limited or congested connectivity up until now. Some of the many benefits of high-speed broadband include e-learning, remote monitoring of livestock or equipment, e-health initiatives, better energy efficiency in the home, more remote working and the availability of value bundle phone, TV and internet packages.
Commenting on the latest news, Dónal O’Keeffe, Broadband Development Officer of Wicklow County Council said, “Wicklow County Council welcomes the news from the NBP and NBI regarding the investment commitment of 57 million euro to rural communities within Co. Wicklow. This will future proof rural communities by providing vital high-speed broadband services to all premises in the county. Currently, 22.3% of premises in the county, approximately 14,500 homes, businesses, farms and other facilities, still do not have access to high-speed internet. This is severely obstructing rural business growth and sustainability and quality of life of rural people in this digital era. The project will substantially help bridge the divide between rural and urban living over the coming years.”
Local businesswomen Rachel Kane of Lifehack.ie welcomes the news, “As a resident of Baltinglass, West Wicklow, I have been immersed in the research and development of human connections to overcome the ‘barriers to communication’ for enterprise and individuals with West Wicklow Business Network, also on a community project for co-working in Baltinglass Courthouse, a contributor to the development of the Wicklow Digital Strategy (Wicklow County Council) and my own fledgling business Lifehack as a design researcher. The potential impact of the NBI roll out for the ‘one-in-four’ premises to participate in a digital society is very promising. West Wicklow, similar to other rural towns and villages has not recovered as quickly as other areas since the recession, due to geographical, transport, infrastructure, accessibility and broadband barriers. With this investment in County Wicklow, the future for residents and SMEs to be included in the economic recovery and digital innovations in health, literacy, education, e-commerce, will create a level playing field. While it is not total saturation, we need to remember the rural electrification process took 30+ years to reach every home. We can innovate with remote working, co-working and sustainable futures for our ‘millennium babies’ and democratise our workplace in the beautiful ‘Garden County’”.
NBI chief executive Peter Hendrick said he welcomed Minister Bruton’s recent progress update and said his team are continuing to work hard to ensure contract close in the coming months. “ We have also initiated a regional communications campaign to ensure local media and public representatives are provided with up to date and important information regarding the project, to ensure they can deliver that to the public. We look forward to engaging with local communities in the future once the contract is signed and we start our work across Ireland”.
“In addition to the €57 million we will be investing in Wicklow, we will also be creating 2,000 jobs across rural Ireland with the national roll-out of broadband, which will be a substantial boost to the local economies. Access to broadband will also create secondary employment to existing local business and enterprises which have been struggling to compete in the current digital economy” added Donal Hanrahan, Head of Deployment , NBI.