Broadband provision in the village of Drumkeeran has split the community with half the village able to access high speed broadband and the other half unable to do so.
The matter was raised at the June Manorhamilton Municipal District meeting and was also raised again at last Friday's main Council meeting.
Speaking at the Manorhamilton Municipal meeting, Cllr Mary Bohan said that the people of Drumkeeran have been left “waiting years for broadband” and now “there is high speed fibre broadband for some of the village and part of the village has no access. This is simply unacceptable after so many years of promises and waiting,” said Cllr Bohan.
She said she could not understand why, when Eir was upgrading broadband services, they failed to cover the entire village.
“Not to cover the whole village when they did this work, well the mind boggles,” said Cllr Bohan.
She said the situation was “even more appalling” when you consider the number of people who are now having to work from home as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.
Cllr Bohan pointed out that in some houses she was aware of parents who were having to get up at 5am in order to complete work on the internet before the rest of the family had to log on for schoolwork.
“It is difficult enough to try and work from home. People shouldn't have to face challenges with broadband as well, especially when some parts of the village have better services than others. That's simply unfair,” she said.
Cllr Padraig Fallon said his family had been waiting for fixed line broadband to be provided by Eir “for years” and had recently went with a private company because they needed access to some form of broadband. He was aware of many other families who were in a similar position.
“Now the cables are running past some houses (in Drumkeeran) and yet families can't get access to high speed broadband,” he pointed out.
“I would have imagined it would be in the best interest of a company, financially, to provide connections to as many households as possible. What has happened in Drumkeeran just doesn't make sense.”
Cllr Justin Warnock said the shortcomings in broadband provision have become “very obvious as a result of Covid-19”.
“People need proper broadband to work and do schoolwork from home and it is clear that many households don't have access to proper broadband here in Leitrim,” he observed.
His comments were echoed by Cllr Sean McDermott who suggested that, at the very least, broadband connections should be provided at community centres to allow them to be used as hubs for those working remotely.
“This would allow community centres to make a little bit of money and it would also help those who simply can't get good broadband at home,” he said.
New Minister must fast-track rollout of broadband
At the main Council meeting last Friday, Cathaoirleach Cllr Bohan again raised the need for fast-tracking of high speed broadband provision throughout the county and again highlighted the situation in Drumkeeran.
Although a spokesperson for the Council said they had received an update stating that fibre broadband was available to homes in the village of Drumkeeran, Cllr Bohan said this is “clearly not the case and (the Council) isn't being given the full facts”.
“As I said at the Municipal District meeting, part of the village is unable to access this service. It is unacceptable,” she said.
“With so many people now working remotely it is more important than ever that people have access to high speed broadband.”
She asked that the Council write to the Minister for Communications asking that measures to speed up the provision of broadband be implemented as a matter of urgency.
Her motion received unanimous support and Cllr Des Guckian suggested that broadband provision should be rolled out in an emergency procedure as part of a nationalised operation similar to that undertaken during the electrification of rural Ireland in the 40s, 50s and 60s.
Cllr Guckian described the rollout of broadband in rural Ireland as “a joke” and said it was clear that rural communities were suffering as a result.