Source: The Clare Champion
By: Dan Danaher

The first high-speed fibre connections to rural homes in Clare as part of the rollout of the National Broad Plan (NBP) will be made before the end of the year, Communications Minister Eamon Ryan has pledged.

In response to parliamentary questions from Deputy Joe Carey and Deputy Cathal Crowe, Minister Ryan confirmed design work “is complete or ongoing” in Clare and 20 other counties.

Deputy Carey asked the Communications Minister to outline his plans to accelerate the National Broadband Plan (NBP) to facilitate remote working in homes and business in Clare, while Deputy Crowe asked a similar question about the roll out of the NBP in the county.

Around 91,000 premises across the country had been surveyed as part of the €3bn plan to deliver high speed broadband to rural Ireland by September 15, according to Minister Ryan.

In Clare, the minister confirmed to the two deputies that surveys have already commenced in Cratloe, Ballycannan, Ballyglas and Cloghrea. Further surveys are due to get underway in the Kilkishen area before the end of the year.

The survey work involves physically walking the routes and documenting images and taking detailed notes and measurements of the poles, cables and underground ducts in each area. It allows for design solutions to be found for a fibre network in each area.

Minister Ryan outlined a number of Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) have been identified in Clare: at Caherconnell, Cree Community Centre, Loop Head and the Michael Cusack Visitor Centre.

Several local schools, including Kilmurry McMahon, Shragh, Ennistymon and Stonehall National Schools, will also be connected to high speed broadband as part of the BCP initiative.

The Department will work with DES to prioritise the remaining schools to be connected over the term of the NBP.

Deputy Carey, who has campaigned extensively for more balanced regional development and better remote working facilities for employees, welcomed the news that much of the groundwork for the National Broadband Plan is now well underway across Clare.

“The pandemic has underlined how crucial it is to roll out high speed internet to our towns, villages and rural areas as soon as possible. The minister has confirmed to me that survey works and vital Broadband Connection Points have been identified for local sites and that the first fibre connections are expected to be in place by December.”

Deputy Carey added: “High-speed broadband will revolutionise work practices for small and medium businesses in our rural areas and will be a vital resource to help companies to grow and survive future storms.

“I will continue to work within Government to ensure everything possible is being done to ensure the speedy roll out of the National Broadband Plan, which is the largest infrastructural project in the country since rural electrification, and to provide any assistance Clare County Council may need as work progresses locally in the months ahead.”

Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are a key element of the NBP providing high speed broadband in every county in advance of the roll out of the fibre to the home network.

Some 144 BCP sites have been installed by NBI and the high speed broadband service will be switched on in these locations through ‘service provider’ contracts managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development for publicly available sites and by the Department of Education and Skills (DES) for schools.

While substantial progress has been made to date, the minister admitted that Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on the delivery of the fibre network. The extent of this impact is currently being assessed and National Broadband Ireland (NBI) has committed to put in place measures to mitigate the impact in as far as possible.

He pledged the department continues to engage with the NBI to explore the feasibility of bringing forward premises, which are scheduled in year six and seven of the current plan to an earlier date.