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Dublin: 17 °C Wednesday 12 August, 2020
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For eir, 300k homes will be a major turning point for Ireland's broadband woes

The road to broadband has been paved with broken promises but eir believe this time could be different.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

WHENEVER THE TOPIC of broadband is brought up, it’s hard not to bring up the frustration many people have about quality, accessibility and the promises that have been mentioned time and time again.

For Carolan Lennon, the managing director of open eir, the issue isn’t just getting out broadband to everyone, it’s dealing with expectations from people and the anger they feel from the current situation.

Part of it is perception and while the eventual goal is to have all households connected to fibre broadband sooner rather than later – 2020 is still the aim for eir to have the vast majority of the country covered with a minimum of 30Mbs – it sees the next 300,000 home connections as a likely turning point for its plans.

That is, transforming a plan that has been often talked about but not delivered into something people can start believing is happening.

“The 300,000 that takes us from the 1.6 million to the 1.9 million is really getting into the heart of rural Ireland and it’s very exciting for us,” says Lennon.

Yet tell that to those who are still waiting to upgrade from slow speeds or from nothing at all. The delay of the National Broadband Plan certainly hasn’t helped matters – with few being surprised about it – so you can forgive many for choosing to believe the plan when they see it.

MX1 Carolan Lennon, the managing director of eir. Source: eir

It’s something that Lennon is more than aware of, regularly receiving emails and letters every day about it. Since it’s the largest company and is practically responsible that’s been around for a long time (in different forms), it’s usually the first to be in the crosshairs when the issue of broadband comes up.

Lennon says while it “happens all of the time,” she does enjoy dealing with the problem as it reminds her that the problem is still a very personal one, answering the quesiton of when broadband is going to roll out.

“We know, even though we’ve done more than anyone else and have 1.6 million by the summer, it’s still fibre to my home so if I don’t have it, it doesn’t matter if we have 1.6 million, it’s ‘why haven’t you covered me?’ so we get that,” she said

The letters we get are very sophisticated. They’re not two lines saying ‘I want broadband tomorrow’, it’s ‘I run a small business’ or ‘I run a farm’ or I have a child in college’… it’s real-life needs and they say I’m missing out here [without broadband].

The main issue that slows down eir with its rollout is geography, which Lennon says is always a major issue regardless of the technology installed.

Since the rural population is so dispersed, it means that connecting is going to be a slow and arduous process – connecting the last 50,000 or so premises in extremely rural areas like islands and mountains will be the most challenging and expensive part, says Lennon.

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While the rollout happens, the other task is to keep people up to speed on what it’s doing. Part of that is showing people what it’s working on now and what the plan is, especially since the only thing they’ll see and care about is the result.

“The fact that we spent all of this money (eir says it spent a billion over the last three years and €2.5 billion over 10 years) getting the core network ready… nobody sees that. They only feel it when the connection is actually in their house. So part of getting out and about is to tell our story, to show what we’re actually doing”.

Sometimes people come in [to events] and they’re very grumpy, and generally… they leave a lot less grumpier than they came in because they can sit down, and we can show them… where we are, and we can give them an estimate of when they’re going to get it. They do get a better understanding of what we’re going to do… and if they don’t have that, they get frustrated.

90393577 eir's offices located close to Heuston station in Dublin. Source: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

The immediate aim is to connect the next 300,000 homes and premises by March 2017. Lennon did say eir was in talks with the ESB over using its electric cables to deliver fibre. She said eir had “been requesting” for it to happen but hadn’t received a positive response so far.

Read: Should people in rural areas pay more to get broadband? >

Read: Google is now teaching its self-driving cars to beep by themselves >

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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