Last month Meath Live revealed that a Ballivor couple had been waiting an astonishing twelve years for a proper broadband service, and now Meath West TD< Peadar Toibin has revealed they are not alone.

The Aontu leader told us ‘The number of premises throughout Meath with no access to high speed broadband is incredible.

‘I have been informed that 19,000 homes and businesses throughout the county have no access to high-speed broadband as they await the roll-out of the National Broadband Scheme which is not expected to be completed in its entirety around the country for another 5 to 7 years.

‘The COVID-19 crisis has radically brought to the fore the significance of homes and businesses needing access to a high-speed broadband service  to allow them to adapt to the particular challenges posed by the pandemic in the last few months.

‘The lack of a quality broadband service is problematic not just for rural areas, but within urban areas throughout the county. There are areas within Navan and other towns in Meath which are without high-speed broadband.

‘I have been contacted by businesses and companies in Meath who had to alter their business operations to remain open.

‘The retention of employees during the pandemic was dependent on them being able to work remotely from home with a connection to an efficient and reliable internet service with a view to allowing them to work remotely in the future.

‘In areas where employees were reliant on poor quality internet speeds and weak mobile network signals from their home has proved challenging for businesses as they struggled to cope with changed work practices.

‘Meath Enterprise is a wonderful facility in the county and provides digital hubs at their enterprise offices in Navan and Kells, but the Kells hub, the larger of the two can only accommodate between 30 and 40 users.

‘The development of a larger digital hub in Navan is still only in the planning stages. I have been informed it could take up to 6 years to see this project through to completion which is estimated to cost in the region of 6 million euro which is a very slow return on investment.

‘Meanwhile we will continue to have thousands of commuters leave the county every day spending hours in their cars adding to traffic congestion and pollution as I continue to fight for a much needed train line between Navan and Dublin”.

‘The development of 9 Broadband Connection Points as part of the early phase of the National Broadband Scheme doesn’t compensate for the lack of high-speed broadband in each home and business in the county.

‘Broadband Connection Points at GAA and community centres in the county in areas such as Cormeen, Boardsmill and Rathkenny will be a welcome addition to some rural areas, but they wouldn’t be in a position to facilitate a small business full-time with a number of employees.

‘The COVID-19 pandemic has also seen the increased need for a proper broadband service in the farming industry as marts remained closed. Some farmers were dependent on trying to sell livestock through online bidding platforms in a sector already struggling.

‘If we hadn’t witnessed such inefficiency and wastage in the previous government in the development of the National Broadband Plan, there would be proper broadband coverage in the entire country at this stage.

‘The current crisis has reinforced this. It has now emerged there is also a lack of skilled expertise in the country to work on the project adding to the delay, an issue I intend to address with the Minister in charge’.