Source: The Anglo Celt

The process of rolling out high-speed broadband to thousands of local homes and businesses is still “ongoing” says National Broadband Ireland (NBI), the firm awarded the National Broadband Plan contract last November.

The work surveying areas suitable for high-speed, fibre-to-the-home broadband connections continues despite current restrictions around preventing the further spread of the COVID-19 virus nationally.

Some of the areas currently being surveyed within a 20-mile radius of Cavan Town, which will act as a connection point in the high-speed national broadband network backbone, include Breandrum out by the Farnham Estate, Killygowan near Ran, Dromcon near Cornafean, Ballinagh and Belturbet.

NBI believe in order to pass the 536,000 homes and businesses nationwide, it will require 89,454 kilometres of overhead fibre-optic cabling, 1.46 million poles, with a further 15,057km of cable to be placed underground.
The surveys being carried out include an extensive assessment of the existing Eir network.

There are, at present, some 16,200 premises across Cavan currently without access to high-speed broadband. This figure represents 38% of all premises, both business and residential. To solve the issue, the government has committed to invest €65 million in supporting the roll-out plan countywide.
A meeting of Cavan County Council earlier this year was told by representatives of NBI that the company could have “boots on the ground” and staff “pulling fibre-optic cable” to build out of the network as early as the second half of this year.

Home and business owners will then be able to place connection orders from perhaps early 2021, and customers connected within the subsequent 12 months.

Those areas not included in the current phase of the roll-out would be included in an extended survey to be carried out between 2021-22.
“Surveying by NBI for the National Broadband Plan (NBP) is ongoing, including in parts of Cavan,” a spokesperson for NBI informed The Anglo-Celt last week.

They added, in respect of current measures around preventing the further spread of Coronavirus infection: “All surveyors are maintaining COVID-19 protocols, including physical distancing, as they complete this outdoor work. “NBI is very much committed to the ongoing rollout of the NBP, and senior management continue to review the situation daily, in accordance with HSE guidelines.”

Community points
In line with NBI’s current work, the firm is also surveying Broadband Community Points (BCPs) in Cavan – where the public will be able to avail of free internet access this year.
This, the NBI spokesperson informed, is also “almost complete”, with the areas to benefit first being Templeport, Glangevlin and Castlerahan.
The imminent connections were nominated after the Government put pressure on NBI and councils to rush through such installations.
The access points are part of a network of approximately 300 community centres, schools, library hubs and local GAA halls in every county that NBI hope to connect over the coming year.
This, NBI hopes, will assist in encouraging remote working in the respective areas.

Along with the three mentioned in Cavan other areas include: Bunnoe Community Centre; Cornafean Community Centre; Drumavaddy Community Centre; Killinkere GAA Club; Knocknalosset Orange Order, Canningstown; Maudabawn Cultural Centre; and the Castle Saunderson International Scouting Centre.

In total, nine sites have been surveyed to date for connection capacity.
Daniel Peeters, is broadband officer with Cavan County Council.
“This whole thing around the virus and social distancing and so forth has made things more complex for people. It has never been more apparent than now, how important it is to get broadband rolled-out to our communities.”

But Mr Peeters says it’s not only the connection, which will be critical to the success of the rollout, but that the skills and knowledge of how to use and capitalise on the tech-upgrade can be utilised to the fullest of its potential at local level.

To that end the council is working on expanding its digital strategy to develop something called ‘Smart Communities’.
As part of that Cavan County Council is looking to upgrade the community Wi-Fi capacity in several towns after successfully being granted funding for the initiative under the Wifi4EU scheme.

The networks, which will be limited but free of charge, are to be established in Bailieborough, Cootehill, Ballyjamesduff, Virginia, Belturbet and Ballyconnell.

Such a capacity already exists in Cavan Town and there is further potential for connected areas to apply for further funding under Smarter Town strategies.

“The big plan in the strategy is to set up those areas and connect them. How we want people to use them is for instance to coordinate with the likes of the arts department to encourage and build up an arts network, or with environmental also, heritage and then food and so on and so on,” says Mr Peeters, who explains that the council has, since the end of 2018, invested heavily in cloud-based software.

Using the council’s already extensive network and involvement in a range of countywide activities, Mr Peeters hopes to “build demand” for usage in the respective communities.

It means upgrading the outlook of some community centres, which up to now might only have witnessed social dancing or bingo on most days, to becoming fully fledged remote working spaces.

“It’s about trying to improve the quality of life in these communities and towns,” says Mr Peeters, who adds from a business perspective, the aim is to encourage more indigenous start-ups.

“Education is the most important part in this, that we have people growing up in a digital environment. Then we have initiatives like the Digital Hub, which acts as a transmitter for new investment, and we hope to roll that out in other towns as well.

“It’s instead of people from Cavan having to travel up and down to Dublin every day. The NBI connection will help as well.
“In Cavan Town, with the Townhall Arts Centre, we are looking at the idea to use part as a community hub for modern technologies, and showcase them.”