Calls are growing for faster rollout of broadband and mobile connectivity across Cork, as business continues to move more and more towards cashless and online models.
According to National Broadband Ireland’s latest update earlier this month, build works are ongoing in all 26 counties across the country to rollout the National Broadband Plan (NBP), with 15,000 connections to the NBP already completed.
It is anticipated that over 100,000 homes and businesses will have access to high speed fibre broadband by the end of this year.
In Cork, €314m has already been invested to get over 80,000 premises in the county connected to the NBP network.
As of the end of June, 8,813 of these premises have been “passed” with NBI fibre infrastructure and are ready to be connected.
However those in more rural areas in Cork say that the rollout isn’t keeping pace with people’s needs.
“When you go back to the likes of Duhallow, Freemount and Drinagh, into the rural areas, the rollout of broadband isn’t keeping pace at all with the idea of a cashless society,” said county councillor for the Kanturk area, Ian Doyle.
“The decision by AIB over the last week, that was studently reversed, that had to be reversed because people in rural Ireland, particularly in our rural north Cork, they haven’t got the facilities to do online banking, or online anything because of the broadband situation,” he added.
Speaking on RTÉ radio on Friday, the chief executive of AIB Colin Hunt admitted that they “got it wrong” with a proposal to remove cash services from 70 branches across the country.
Mr Hunt said that it is “inevitable” that banking services will look different in future, but the move to shut down cash services was one that was “too far, far too fast”.
The backlash to AIB’s move showed clearly that areas in rural Ireland have not yet got the infrastructure and connectivity to plough ahead towards a cashless or online way of life.
Even more populated urban areas such as Carrigaline, that have already benefitted from significant rollout of the NBP have frustrating blackspots.
Carrigaline Councillor Seamus McGrath said that broadband rollout needs to “keep pace” with changes in how people work and live.
“We still have black spots without a shadow of a doubt, that need to be addressed, but in the grander scheme of things we're fortunate that the NBI has come into Carrigaline. The rollout has made a difference, there’s no question about that,” he said.
“Society in general is moving towards online work and online activity. Broadband needs to keep pace with that. Unfortunately, even in an area like Carrigaline where it is well served, there are still remaining issues there,” he added.
Hospitality consultant and former owner of Idaho Café, Richard Jacob, said that cashless is the obvious way forward for many businesses, but “in my work as a consultant, it keeps coming up, especially with a lot of food trucks started last summer, people were heading out in horse boxes across the country, and it’s incredible how some places really close to big population bases still don’t have any strong phone signal and to use the card terminal with,” he said.
He highlighted that where he is now based, only 10km from Cork city centre as the crow flies, he won’t see the rollout of NBI fibre connectivity until 2026, and even mobile phone connection is dodgy.
“I think that we are moving rapidly towards cashless entities, it is expected to happen. And ultimately, it will be a good idea for businesses, it absolutely makes sense,” he said.
“But before we rush and start saying ok that’s it we go cashless, we just need to check that every single business is able to operate. We really need to make sure that the infrastructure is there,” he added.