March 5, 2024
Business News

How Kilkenny towns can hook up to the high-speed broadband highway

TOWNS across Kilkenny are being given the opportunity to set up their very own community broadband services.

But they only have until the end of this month have until May 31 to qualify for up to €30,000 in supports for a business plan, Kilkenny LEADER Partnership (KLP) has announced.

KLP CEO Declan Rice said advisory training and technical support for successful hubs bidding to operate their own schemes under the Bluetown Community Rural Broadband plan will begin at the end of June, with a view to submitting comprehensive business plans to major broadband providers by Halloween.

The third and final roadshow explaining the initiative takes place next Tuesday, May 21, at The Pembroke Hotel on Patrick Street, Kilkenny, starting at 8pm. Two other roadshows have already taken place in Freshford and Mullinavat.

Up to 20 major towns across Kilkenny will not receive any service upgrade under the National Broadband Plan. Therefore, communities need to rally together, run the fibre cable themselves and build up a critical mass so they can be a price maker rather than a price taker for high speed broadband, Mr Rice said.

The 20 Blue Town areas in Kilkenny are Urlingford, Johnstown, Freshford, Ballyragget, Clogh/Moneenroe, Tullaroan, Kilmanagh, Bennettsbridge, Gowran, Paulstown, Goresbridge, Inistioge, Tullagher, Knocktopher, Ballyhale, Mullinavat, Slieverue, Piltown, Kilmacow and Mooncoin.

Mr Rice added: “We need a genuine expression of community interest. We need more than a couple of houses along a road saying they want better broadband. We need communities that can motivate their neighbours to do it for themselves. This is a competition. We won’t be able to fund 20 plans. We will be able to fund three to five at most.”

KLP board member Rory Williams said communities stop becoming consumers and become owners when they have their own Bluetown Community Rural Broadband group.

He added: “What we’re asking communities now is, can you sit down, is there an appetite to come together, to go through the geography, see where these cables might run, find a path, play with the jigsaw and be a winner?

“Any community worth its salt will go for this. If a community can gather together €3,000 for example, they will get €30,000 of a grant to present a plan, to woo a provider and future proof their community. It can be done. And we’ve the technical support form fibre expert, John Graves, to make sure it’s done.”

John Graves has been contracted by KLP to offer the technical support needed to make the plan a reality. John Graves is internationally-renowned for his work across fibre broadband and telecoms in Ireland and the UK. He and his brother set up the cable television company in South Wales that later became Virgin Media.

The so-called ‘Blue Town’ areas cover 57% of all premises across Kilkenny.  The 27,200 plus homes and businesses there have what is described in the NBP as “adequate broadband”.

But KLP research has found that many homes and businesses in Blue Towns in Kilkenny are dissatisfied with their service now as well as its capacity to deal with expanding needs and wants, as broadband becomes a features of almost every element of daily life.

Others in these areas believe that they are spending far too much, relative to the larger cities and towns, for the service – high or low speed – they do get.

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