THE rollout of the National Broadband Plan in Donegal is facing major setbacks with the pandemic being blamed for targets being missed. The Letterkenny and Creeslough areas have moved to the design phase of the project but many areas are facing delays.
Eighty per cent of premises in Donegal, within what is known as the Intervention Area of the National Broadband Plan, which includes homes, farms, commercial businesses and schools, have yet to have their survey completed, according to figures from the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications. Physical surveys of townlands are required to examine the existing infrastructure in the area before they move on to design.
In Donegal there are 32,373 premises due to be connected to high-speed broadband under the plan which equates to 32 per cent of all premises in the county.
A spokesperson for National Broadband Ireland told the Donegal News: “Under the National Broadband Plan, Donegal will see an investment of €127M in the new high-speed fibre network. This will enable e-learning, remote monitoring of livestock or equipment, e-health initiatives, better energy efficiency in the home, and facilitate increased levels of remote working. 43 primary schools will be connected in Donegal under the National Broadband Plan.
“Surveying works have been completed in the Letterkenny and Cresslough deployment areas, and these areas are now in the design phase of the rollout. Over the coming months, further surveying and design works will be carried out as we progress with the rollout in Co. Donegal. Due to the extremely unpredictable Covid-19 environment which is creating some challenges for the survey and build elements of the project, we are not able to publish deployment plans beyond the 24 month time horizon. National Broadband Ireland remains fully committed to deploying the infrastructure for the National Broadband Plan across the country, including on the Inishowen peninsula.”
The spokesperson added that in advance of the Fibre-to-the-Home roll out, the NBP provides for the delivery of Broadband Connection Points nationwide. These facilities – which include GAA clubs, community centres and tourist sites – provide free public access to high speed internet in the rollout area. There are twelve Broadband Connection Points in Donegal, nine of which have been connected. These include Sliabh Liag Ranger Station, Leghowney Community Centre, Rathlin Knitwear, The Gweedore Theatre, Dunree Military Museum, Tory Co-Op, Ray Community Centre, Meenreagh Hostel and Cranford Coole Community Centre.
Louise Lennon from Irish Rural Link said it is disappointing and worrying that the rollout is facing such setbacks for rural counties like Donegal. She questioned how they can be so far behind given that work has been ongoing during the pandemic.
“They have been working throughout Covid. They might have been delayed at the beginning but they were brought back in to continue the work,” said Ms Lennon.“Digital hubs are being developed up and down the west coast which can be used by some people but not everyone.”
Ms Lennon said she does not know how they are going to make up the shortfall and said more surveyors will need to be taken on.
“It is worrying. We are trying to attract multinationals in and if the infrastructure is not there then it is all going to one side of the country,” she warned.