Calls are growing for faster rollout of broadband and mobile connectivity in Cork as businesses continue to move increasingly towards cashless and online models.
According to the latest update from National Broadband Ireland earlier this month, construction work is underway in all 26 counties of the country to roll out the National Broadband Plan (NBP), with 15,000 connections to the NBP already completed.
It is expected that more than 100,000 homes and businesses will have fiber optic broadband access by the end of this year.
In Cork, €314 million has already been invested to connect over 80,000 county premises to the NBP network.
At the end of June, 8,813 of these premises had “switched over” to NBI fiber infrastructure and were ready to be connected.
However, those in more rural areas of Cork say the rollout is not keeping pace with people’s needs.
“When you go back to Duhallow, Freemount and Drinagh, in rural areas, the broadband rollout doesn’t follow the idea of a cashless society at all,” said Kanturk Area County Councilor Ian Doyle. .
“AIB’s decision over the past week, which was overturned by students, which had to be overturned because people in rural Ireland, particularly in our rural North Cork, do not have the ways to do online banking, or anything online because of the broadband situation,” he added.
Speaking on RTÉ radio on Friday, AIB chief executive Colin Hunt admitted they “got it wrong” with a proposal to cut treasury services from 70 branches across the country.
Mr Hunt said it was ‘inevitable’ that banking services would look different in the future, but the decision to close cash services was ‘too far, far too fast’.
The backlash from AIB’s decision has made it clear that rural areas of Ireland still lack the infrastructure and connectivity to move towards a cashless or online lifestyle.
Even more populated urban areas such as Carrigaline, which have already seen significant NBP deployment, have frustrating black spots.
Carrigaline adviser Seamus McGrath said broadband rollout must “keep pace” with changes in the way people work and live.
“We still have black spots without a shadow of a doubt, which need to be resolved, but in the bigger scheme of things, we are lucky that the NBI have entered Carrigaline. The deployment has made a difference, there is no doubt about that,” he said.
“Society in general is moving towards online work and activity. Broadband must keep pace. Unfortunately, even in an area like Carrigaline where it is well served, there are still problems,” he added.
Hospitality consultant and former Idaho Café owner Richard Jacob said that going cashless is the obvious way to go for many businesses, but “in my work as a consultant, it keeps coming up, especially with many businesses. many food trucks launched last summer, people were riding in horse boxes across the country, and it’s amazing how some places very close to large population bases still don’t have strong phone signal and to use the card terminal,” he said.
He pointed out that where he is now based, just 10km from Cork city center as the crow flies, he will not see the deployment of NBI fiber optic connectivity until 2026, and even mobile phone connection is questionable.
“I think we are moving quickly towards cashless entities, it should happen. And eventually it will be a good idea for businesses, it just makes sense,” he said.
“But before we rush out and start saying ok, that’s it, we’re going cashless, we just need to check that each business is able to operate. We really need to make sure the infrastructure is there,” he added.