An artist's impression of the interior of co:worx Edgeworthstown (the former Ulster Bank building on Main Street).
Edgeworthstown needs a dedicated fibre broadband connection for both the €1 million co:worx remote working hub and the €3 million new public library, which will be located directly across the road.
Local Fianna Fáil TD Joe Flaherty raised the matter in the Dáil last week.
Highlighting that Edgeworthstown is the second largest town in county Longford and home to a number of leading industries and employers, he pointed out, “While the local exchange has fibre broadband to the cabinet, there is, it seems, no provision for fibre to homes or businesses. The provision of a dedicated fibre connection is simply too costly for a start-up, and particularly a community project like co:worx.”
As part of the recent upgrade to the streetscape in Edgeworthstown, Longford County Council included a 110 mm ducting network linking the two buildings. “As all the good civil contractors will tell us, most of the heavy lifting has been done with regard to this project,” quipped Deputy Flaherty.
He asked that Eir consider expediting the roll-out of its Ireland’s fibre network, IFN, to Edgeworthstown, which it is currently rolling out in nearby Longford.
“I am aware that Eir has made provision for a similar project in Abbeyshrule, where the project is a similar co-working space called The Yard Hub. There is real hope and expectation in Edgeworthstown, and within the local community, that the organisation charged with taking this to the next digital level will see the merit in these two projects, that is, the public library and the co:worx hub, and work with the local community to ensure that we have the high-speed broadband on which both these facilities will be dependent.”
Minister Eamon Ryan said it was his understanding that Longford County Council is currently in active discussions with Eir and with relevant Departments, including mine and the Department of Rural and Community Development, to determine how best to ensure improved digital and broadband access for Edgeworthstown, including for the start-up hub and the library, both of which are due to open towards the end of 2021.
He pointed out that Eir is a private, commercial company and the decision to roll out broadband infrastructure is a matter for the management of the company. “That said, with regard to connectivity on a nationwide basis, the national broadband plan, NBP, is obviously of critical importance in ensuring high-speed connectivity. “
Minister Ryan commented, “Hubs such as the one planned for Edgeworthstown will help kick-start local economies all over Ireland and facilitate co-working, SMEs, start-ups and local job creation.
“The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Humphreys, is particularly keen on the concept of hubs. I understand that the Co:worx hub in Edgeworthstown is a former Ulster Bank branch and I am sure that location would be familiar to her.
“What is happening in that town is exactly the sort of project at the centre of our new rural development strategy.
“It is exactly in tune with what we want to do in the recovery plan so we should do everything we can to support it. It looks like a good example of what we want.”
Deputy Flaherty welcomed the Minister’s enthusiasm for the project and added,
“ It is very important that Eir is reminded of the need to work and engage with local communities. It is inconceivable that it cannot accommodate a public library worth over €3 million, which is soon to open, and such an innovative remote working hub in the county's second largest town.
“I am delighted that the Minister is aware of this project and enthused and engaged with it but we need to send a loud and clear message to Eir that it must engage with the project promoters and ensure they get the broadband they need.”
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