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'We're supposed to be in the modern era': School misses out on high-speed internet by metres

St Kevin’s in Laragh still has to contend with internet speeds of 5mb.

St Kevin's National School has over 130 pupils
St Kevin's National School has over 130 pupils
Image: Google Maps

A SCHOOL IN Wicklow is not able to access high-speed broadband, despite being mere metres away from recently-installed fibre cables.

The government is in the process of providing broadband to all areas of the country but for St Kevin’s School in Laragh, it has so far been left behind as high-speed internet was installed in the area but not at the school itself.

Broadband has been singled out as the most vital thing that the government needs to get right in its plan to regenerate rural Ireland, with its importance highlighted on numerous occasions for education, tourism, industry and all forms of business.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, school principal Anne Savage said that having no access to broadband is incredibly frustrating.

“We have 130 pupils here,” she said. “And with the teachers and SNAs, we have 150 people on site on a daily basis.”

The government has provided an interactive map of where it intends to roll out high-speed broadband as part of its national plan.

When you zoom in to find St Kevin’s in Laragh, you see an amber dot – signifying an area that it aims to provide broadband in – surrounded by a blue area – which highlights areas where broadband has been provided.

laragh school An amber spot over the school - in the middle of the picture - signifying that the government aims to provide a service there in future. Source: Department of Communications

“We get a download speed of around 5mb at best,” Savage said. “And an upload speed of around 0.3mb.

We’re supposed to be in the modern era. The government wants an ICT-literate generation. It’s totally frustrating.

She said that having more than a couple of laptops running on the internet at any one time causes the network to go at a snail’s pace, making it completely impractical to use them in a classroom setting.

Savage cited the practical problems this causes, such as the return of standardised testing to the Department of Education.

“The department wants us to do that online,” she said, “but sometimes we have to do it from home because the internet is just so poor here”.

The principal added that having even a decent standard of broadband would make such a difference to the school.

“We have a young, enthusiastic staff here,” she said. “We have a vibrant pupil population. You can do so many things with communications and technology now and we don’t have that chance.”

Living opposite the school is Laragh resident Pat Reid.

He similarly has to contend with slow internet speeds, despite his job requiring him to work from home. He also has speeds of 5mb but is often forced to go to libraries or community centres to access good quality internet.

“There’s a 100mb fibre cabinet in the village of Laragh,” he said. “But we can’t access it. We’ve been told our telephone lines are too old, and run elsewhere.

It’s desperately hard [to work]. It’s appalling to be honest. Even if it were to connect the school at the very least, that would be something.

The National Broadband Plan is a government policy initiative which aims to deliver high-speed broadband to every citizen and business in Ireland, particularly those in areas that have been left behind by commercial companies.

The ambition of the plan is to achieve 100% coverage across Ireland within three to five years.

This will require the laying down of the wires, and the building and maintaining of the network across rural Ireland. Commercial operator Eir is set to roll out access to 300,000 premises by the end of 2018 as part of the plan.

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten has said there are strict targets for Eir to deliver upon.

The need for such broadband access has been highlighted on numerous occasions.

After the government announced a plan to revitalise rural Ireland at the beginning of the year, various groups pinpointed broadband as the key factor in regeneration outside of Dublin.

An Irish Farmers Association spokesperson said that although the plan looked good, it was rural broadband that was “a real killer” for farmers looking to expand their business – or start something new on the side.

Seamus Boland, CEO of Irish Rural Link agreed, and said that what they needed was proper high-speed broadband and “no mickey mouse broadband”.

While Legan, Co Longford comes out the with the slowest average speed of 1.98Mbps – Leitrim, Roscommon, Monaghan and Mayo are also in the bottom five.

Boland said: “When you have a website, you have videos of what you’re selling on the home page. In the old days, TV advertising would have pictures and a voice over, asking you to buy something.

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling sweeping brushes. You need broadband.

For Principal Savage, she is keen to make sure that her school is not left out when it comes to this provision of broadband across the country.

“We’re a school in rural Ireland, and we have a very poor service,” she added. “Children shouldn’t miss out just because our school is run on an old telephone line.”

At the time of publication, TheJournal.ie has not received a reply from the Department of Communications on the case of St Kevin’s School in Laragh, Co Wicklow.

With reporting from Gráinne Ni Aodha

Read: Without high-speed broadband, will people return to live in rural Ireland?

Read: Irish broadband speed is going to be as fast as it is in South Korea – Naughten

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Sean Murray

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