Getting a good internet service is still an issue for many parts of the country - and not just rural settings, reports Emma McNamara.

While several countries describe connectivity as a legal right and the United Nations describes internet access as a basic human right, many in Ireland are still struggling to get online.

There have been attempts to deal with this problem in recent years, however.

Adrian Legg was part of the team that took part in a 2002 European Union pilot project to study the effect of broadband on rural areas.

Adrian Legg, who took part in a European broadband pilot


Adrian Legg now runs Ireland’s most southerly start-up, Culture Ark, which is going through the National Digital Research Centre’s LaunchPad programme.

But the cost involved is still getting in the way of ubiquitous broadband.

Earlier this week Eircom’s chief executive Richard Moat said that rolling out fast internet technology to the most rural of houses is very expensive, and could cost up to €12,500 per home.

That's uneconomical, he said, and the Government is looking at subsidies for those worst off.

But getting to those disadvantaged 700,000 premises – out of 2.3 million - is still a long way off.  

The National Broadband Plan, the country’s fifth, aims to have operators build high-speed broadband networks where they were most needed by the end of next year, with the final homes being connected in 2020.

And last week we heard about yet another plan – Siro, a joint venture between the ESB and Vodafone, investing €450m in fibre broadband cables to 500,000 premises in regional towns.

The roll out of these services can't come soon enough for Sue Best and her husband Patrick.

They run lazydays.ie – a camper van rental business - from their home about ten kilometres from Wicklow town.

All of their enquiries, bookings and insurance dealings are done online, and sometime that just can’t happen. 

Sue Best of Lazy Days, which suffers from poor internet connectivity


The advantage of a high-speed broadband rollout is plain to see.

At the other end of the broadband spectrum is Belcarra in central Co Mayo, where last October Eircom switched on a fibre network that brought a gigabit connection to the business and home.

Brian Smith and his wife Juliet run Mabtech services from there.

They sell medical equipment over six websites – everything from lightweight wheelchairs, to nebulisers, stethoscopes and anti-pressure mattresses.

Brian Smith of Mabtech, which has a fibre broadband connection


And Mabtech recently supplied Disney with props for the new George Clooney film Tomorrowland.

There are a number of issues that have held out broadband in parts of Ireland - existing infrastructure is not being used, there are disputes between operators on pricing and access to the network is still problematic.

We’ll look at these in further detail over coming weeks.