Rural community builds its first broadband network in Ireland

The local community of Piltown and Fiddown, Co. Kilkenny is the first in Ireland to build its own fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband network, as residents were adamant they would not be left behind in national broadband plan.

Community residents and the non-profit volunteer group Broadband 4 Our Community (B4OC) made history by connecting the area’s first homes and businesses to the broadband network.

B4OC project manager Jim O’Brien said the two localities are among about 20 similarly sized villages in the county that are classified by a European standard as having “adequate broadband”.

Therefore, they are not included in investments under the National Broadband Plan, he added.

A total of 750 residences and businesses over 3.4 km22 The region will have access to at least 150MB and high-speed broadband service that people own, manage and can afford, the group said.

Broadband network project

Technical assistance as well as planning, training and capital funding was provided to the community by the Kilkenny Leader Partnership (KLP) and its funding partner, the Tomar Trust.

With their funding, the Piltown Community Enterprise (PCE) set up a committee to investigate the viability of the project and conducted a study to establish ways and means to build the FTTP network.

Recalling the process of the project, O’Brien commented:

“My own father-in-law is a retired fitter and he was in the trenches and on the poles with me as we built the infrastructure – it was all built on private land and is in the landscape.”

He added that the financial support from local businesses and the wider community has been incredible. The first phase of the project is now complete, O’Brien confirmed, but there are still a few phases to go through now.

Pictured is Jim O’Brien with Paul Walsh, Declan Rice and owner Vernon Buckley and Kate Foley of Iverk Produce. Image source: Dylan Vaughan

B4OC President Brian Doyle explained that laying fiber optic cable is expensive. Therefore, using the future-proof FTTP model used by the telecommunications industry was the only option. He added:

“This is a service of the community, for the community, owned by the community and run in its interests. It is a much lighter development model and operates on a non-profit community basis. »

Doyle also said that doing it mostly themselves meant that costs were greatly reduced and they hoped to pay out a community dividend, which would be used to fund other community projects.

KLP CEO Declan Rice said “Installing FTTP networks isn’t rocket science, in many ways it’s easier than installing a group water system.”

Rice explained that a fiber network requires some financial capital to get started, as well as broader cooperation between landowners and the community. “Piltown-Fiddown showed it could be done,” he added.

The successful community project should not be the exception, the CEO said, rather it should be a pioneer. “By developing and retaining ownership of the fiber optic network, a community is taking charge of its digital future,” Rice commented.

Local impact and “community spirit”

The project ensures that local businesses and small and medium-sized businesses have the broadband service and infrastructure they need, O’Brien explained.

Kate Foley, who works in the office of Iverk Produce, one of Ireland’s largest fruit and vegetable suppliers, said:

“Quality broadband is essential for a business like ours and this service will make this region much more attractive for everyone. Since we got plugged in, we haven’t dropped the connection once and found it to be 100% reliable. »

Hundreds of families who previously struggled with speeds between 1MB and 6MB, the project leader added, also have the fiber power they need to work and study from their homes in rural Ireland.

Living in the local community, Vernon Buckley said he worked from home and the project had been “transformative”.

“There were times when I couldn’t even send an email. Now I’m video conferencing with students based across the country several days a week.

members of the B4OC Board of Directors; secretary Mary Morgan; Gerry Hickey; Treasurer Jill Downey; President Brian Doyle and Paul Walsh

“The community spirit and volunteerism that has made this project possible is nothing short of amazing,” he added.

About Keneth T. Graves

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