Trevor Laffan: High-speed broadband may be a very long way down the line

Trevor Laffan is a bit sceptical about the finish dates for the national roll out of high-speed broadand - here's why...
Trevor Laffan: High-speed broadband may be a very long way down the line

FRUSTRATION: Trevor Laffan’s personal broadband saga suggests connecting the country may take a lot longer than planned

I’M sure you’ve heard by now that the whole country is going to have access to super-duper wifi.

That’s great news, because the internet plays a huge part in a lot of what we do, and life is more difficult without it.

It isn’t available to everyone as of now and those of us who have it, know it’s far from perfect, but hopefully that’s about to change as 1.1 million people in 540,000 homes are set to benefit from high-speed broadband.

It’s taken a while to get here and there’s a long way to go yet, but it’s a start.

The full roll-out of the fibre optic cables will take between five to seven years, at an estimated cost of somewhere between €3 billion and €5 billion.

Before you get too carried away though, it’s not going to happen overnight. They say it’s going to take seven years to finish, but most homes should be connected within the first three years.

Call me cynical, but I have my doubts.

As sure as night follows day, there will be a few hiccups along the way. A rare beetle living in a laneway in Carrigtwohill, or telegraph poles riddled with a unique type of woodworm could hold things up. Those habitats would have to be protected to avoid upsetting Eamon Ryan and his green pals.

If my own experience is anything to go by, we have a long road ahead.

Back in 2016, I heard that fibre optic broadband was coming to my area. I was excited at the prospect of having access to the internet that would actually work. Internet that would be there when I wanted it and would allow me to do stuff.

In October that year, a lovely young lady called to my door from Eir. They used to be called Eircom but changed the name to Eir because, well, I don’t really know why. I’m pretty sure it’s the same service and the same people.

Anyway, the lovely young lady was happy to announce that the new top of the range broadband would be available within a few weeks.

I was excited, but I had been disappointed before, so I forced myself to relax.

She told me to ring Eir to order it, so I did, and went through the usual routine when you try to phone a large company these days. Thank- you for calling, pick one of the four options, press the hash sign, pick one of the next four options, press the star sign, pick the option that most suits your needs and wait for an eternity before finally talking to a human.

I told the voice about my meeting with the nice young lady and I advised her that I was now ready to sign up for the broadband.

Well, that was great news for the lady in Eir and she was very happy to assist me, except that I had to wait for ten days.

I explained that I would be out of the country by then so if she could just make a little note on my account that I wanted it set up, I would be very grateful.

Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be possible because I would have to ring up personally on day ten to book the broadband. As I wasn’t going to be around on day ten, I would have to leave it until I got back home.

As soon as I returned, I made another call to Eircom, now called Eir, and went through the familiar routine of choosing options, pressing hash keys and waiting patiently. I eventually spoke to a lady, told her my story, and she went off to make sure the service was still available, and it was.

Just as I was about to sign up, she told me that as soon as I placed the order, my internet would be disconnected until the new broadband was hooked up, which would take a minimum of five working days, excluding weekends.

As we were heading into a Bank Holiday weekend, that disconnection period would be longer, so I decided to postpone it until after the long weekend.

When I got back onto Eircom, now called Eir, I got through to a very pleasant young man and he listened patiently as I told my tale once more.

He checked that the broadband was available in my area and thankfully, it was, and it should be connected in fewer than the five days.

But there was a new problem. The portal in my area was now full and there was no room for any new customers, so he told me to try again in a week.

A week later I called back, and I spoke to a nice young lady. I repeated the entire story once more and I told her that I was ready to go if there was some room in the portal for me. I didn’t want much, I wasn’t going to be greedy, I just needed a tiny bit.

Well, good news, there was room, but because of a huge demand for the new service, I would have to wait for two weeks and I would be without the internet for that period.

So the nice lady suggested that I should wait until the New Year, when the demand would be reduced, and I would be able to get the service quicker.

So, that’s what I did. I waited for the new year and eventually got connected. But that wasn’t the end of the story. Things got so complicated after that, that I had to get the Communications Regulator involved before the matter was finally resolved.

That’s why I’m a bit sceptical about the finish dates for this project. If it’s that complicated to connect little old me, what’s it going to be like connecting the entire country?

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