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NBP moves closer with Cork set for €290m investment

Thursday, 22nd August, 2019 8:54am

The €3 billion National Broadband Plan (NBP) has been beset by delays, controversies and overspend but the Government said this week that the roll out of high-speed broadband to almost 75,000 premises in Cork has moved closer.

It said that work to finalise the contract for the NBP is “well progressed” and the contract may be signed by mid-September. €290 million is to be invested in Cork, which will be the biggest financial beneficiary in the country. 28 per cent of premises in Cork are still without high-speed broadband in 2019.

Communications Minister Richard Bruton recently told the Cabinet 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) is 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 finalized.

74,820 homes in Cork will be connected to fibre broadband to in the Intervention Area. This is a mapped area of rural Ireland where high-speed broadband is currently not commercially available and it includes over half a million premises, including 56,000 farms and 44,000 businesses.

In Cork, this includes areas such as Kilbarry, Dromore and Currabeha – as well as nine islands off west Cork including Bere Island, Sherkin, Dursey and Cape Clear.

Some of the 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.

Cork Chamber of Commerce CEO Conor Healy said that the roll-out of high-speed broadband across the county would businesses in rural and urban areas.

“Improved connectivity is a real positive – not just for businesses operating in areas without access to high-speed broadband – but for our members who interact with suppliers and contractors in rural Cork. The plan also covers parts of the city and suburbs where coverage is patchy.

“Cork is famed for its food production and tourism offering and the provision of high-speed broadband will enable these industries to further evolve. The investment is very welcome.”

Peadar Collins of the Irish Tree Centre in Kildorrey, Mallow said: “The Irish Tree Centre is a classic rural business that is dependent on communication at high speed. Our particular business is rooted in the Irish countryside but we trade with people from every county on the island of Ireland and every country in Europe and beyond.

“We may be a rural land-based business growing trees but people and connectivity are at the heart of our success to date. Our clients need our information to make decisions. Speed and accuracy are at the heart of this. To date, rural broadband has not worked for me, I am tired of patchy, slow broadband - we need the national broadband plan, full stop!”

Frank Wilson, MD of Ceramicx of Ballydehob said: “Ceramicx welcomes the latest news of a commitment towards broadband provision throughout Cork county. We as a company that export 98 per cent of our goods to 65+ countries, employing 65 people in the rural village of Ballydehob. We have seen the transformative effect of high-speed broadband on Skibbereen businesses first-hand, and welcome the opportunity to revolutionise our business connectivity.”

NBI chief executive Peter Hendrick said he welcomed Minister Bruton’s recent progress update. “Some members of the team recently met with regional service providers – including several from Cork – for information briefings about how their businesses can integrate with the NBP.”

“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.

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