Elected representatives of Ballymahon Municipal district held their monthly meeting on Thursday, September 26, at Ballymahon community library, with the National Broadband plan one of the hot topics of the day.
Christine Collins, Broadband Officer with Longford county council, gave a presentation to sitting councillors offering an update on the plans for the implementation of the National broadband plan in Longford.
She stated: “As part of the National Broadband Plan, we have been allowed to provide local communities with focal points where they have access to high speed broadband in year one of the National Broadband Plan roll-out process.
“These points are for the community to take advantage of and we are hoping that the different communities selected will decide if they have a Wifi hotspot or whether they will be able to provide hot desk facilities.
“We have contacted all the connection point location owners to ask them for their permission and explain the initiative to them.
“They are happy to give to the initiative. But the only concern they have is with the operational costs.”
In terms of costs, councillors were informed that the Department of Rural and Community Development will pay for all of the capital costs in relation to the installation of the access points, while also paying for 75% of running costs. The remaining 25% to be covered by each individual area.
Christine said: “The responsibility will fall onto the communities to pay the remaining 25% of the cost.
“We really want to support these community groups as much as possible and we really want to ensure that the connection points do happen.
“I want to ask you all to ensure the shortfall of 25% that is required from Community groups is found and that this is supported.”
Cllr Mark Casey then sought clarity on the funding excess to be paid each year and was informed this equalled €12.50 per month per access point or €900 for the year for all six points.
“That seems fair enough.” He replied.
Ms Collins continued her presentation, noting that all twelve identified sites in Longford were approved by the department and all areas chosen, were located in an amber area - or an area where High speed broadband is currently not available. She also noted that there is an obligation from the department to have all twelve points connected within twelve months.
She said: “The department set out criteria for us to identify these points. We followed the guidelines and underwent a mapping exercise to identify them.
“The maximum we could identify was twelve and we identified twelve in Longford. Of the twelve identified we got approval for twelve which was very good."
Ms Collins informed councillors that six of the sites would be located in Ballymahon MD, with four in Granard and the remaining two in Longford MD. The council have been advised to keep the identity of these sites quiet for the interim.
Ms Collins then informed councillors of the benefits these points will bring to each individual area, before calling on their support to help fund the excess operational costs for the six points.
She said: “You can only imagine the numerous economic and social advantages of having high-speed broadband connections.
“It will help us remove the digital divide between urban and rural areas.
“We really want to support these groups and make these Broadband connection points happen.”
Councillors then questioned how the access points would work.
Christine explained; “Broadband will be only available within the facility where it is located and people can also access it from outside.
“Content will all be filtered.”
The Longford county council broadband officer then confirmed that the council are working on sourcing items to ‘kit out’ each access point with items such as desks.
Following the presentation, Cllr Casey proposed the motion to support this initiative, which was seconded by Mick Cahill.