By Peter Hendrick, CEO of National Broadband Ireland (NBI)
Navigating through the current challenges brought upon us by Covid-19, we are reminded of our reliance on connectivity and technology to go about our daily lives.
The criticality of initiatives to bring high speed broadband to those who don’t have it may have been under the microscope globally for many years now – but they have never before seemed so pertinent. At the time of signing Ireland’s landmark National Broadband Plan (NBP) last November, who could have imagined that four months later the nation would be doing its best to continue life as close to normal as possible within the constraints of staying at home. For those trying to remote work, educate their children, or access online healthcare services, maybe for the first time, the experience will have been seamless or excruciating largely depending on access to high speed broadband.
For everyone who is at home keeping safe, we’re adapting and preparing for what the post Covid-19 world may look like. Almost certainly, it will fast-track the already accelerated pace at which our lives have become reliant on connectivity. Businesses are being run on video conference calls, families and friends are connecting remotely, children are doing their schoolwork online, and at the end of a long day we stream or download our latest box set to binge.
For Ireland to not only reopen from the crisis, but to reboot and recover, access to high speed broadband must be regarded as a vital utility for every single person in the country.
While we all play our part in helping to ensure the health risks of Covid-19 are eradicated, aspects of our lives have unquestionably changed long-term. As everyone in the world unites on this single mission, we must also unite on bringing about solutions. It can no longer be accepted that location determines your right to connectivity. We must all have ubiquitous, equal access to a limitless future.
The digital divide that has erupted in Ireland, between urban and rural communities, is now one of the most pressing matters, leaving those without significantly disadvantaged because of their inadequate connectivity.
Our commitment is to stay on track with our rollout schedule under the guidance of the HSE, and to be part of Ireland’s recovery, ensuring that Rural Ireland is equipped to bounce back strongly with all of the modern-day advantages that urban areas will have.
The first phases of our work will create Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) across the country in 2020, providing free public access to high-speed broadband at community facilities. The second phase of our work, is seeing field workers, including survey and design teams conduct critical work outside, focusing on large-scale mobilisation and essential design work required to survey the routes where fibre will be laid.
Our team continues to make excellent headway, with over 20,000 premises surveyed already. So far this year, we have boots on the ground working in Cork, Galway, Cavan, Limerick, Wexford, Kerry, Roscommon and Monaghan as we prepare to start connecting the first premises to our world-leading fibre-to-the-home infrastructure. In all, we’re spanning 96% of the country’s land mass with enough fibre to go around the world nearly four times.
At National Broadband Ireland, we’re proud to be delivering this monumental task, the biggest investment in rural Ireland since rural electrification. More so than ever before, it’s never seemed so critical and our connected lives will be ready to take off with limitless potential, as Ireland lays the foundation for a brighter future for all.