Our columnist Patricia Feehily tells it as it is
THANK the Lord, Godot is coming! High speed Broadband is hitting rural Ireland in spots even as I write. At least the groundwork is being laid. But, sadly, an awful lot of us are already feeling marooned.
“It’s coming as far as the cross a couple of hundred yards away but it’s not coming down our road,” a friend wailed this week. She was distraught – a bit like Robinson Crusoe finally spotting a ship on the horizon and then watching it slowly sail away from his desert Island. She’s right. Like the comet Hale-Bopp, it could be years before it comes back this way again.
This, for a huge chunk of rural Ireland located off the beaten track, is a terrifying prospect, partly because of the mysterious nature of instant communication. We may be losing our religion but our need for connectivity is stronger than ever. As for me, I still can’t get my head around the marvel of television not to talk of Broadband.
It isn’t as if we haven’t reason to be concerned at being left out of the picture. It took more than 30 years for the rural electrification scheme to penetrate every corner of the land back in the last century. By this reckoning, whatever about the chances of rural Ireland surviving, some of us will definitely be dead and gone before we even get to taste high speed Broadband.
No wonder then that rural Ireland, unable to bear the disadvantaged label any longer, has taken to mindfulness and yoga. What’s left of the village halls are filled with people practising both disciplines in advance of the apocalypse. The stress is palpable in the countryside. I’m going to take up knitting myself to try and keep it at bay. I’ve just learned that not only does knitting have a calming effect on you, but it’s also good for lowering the blood pressure and increasing one’s level of good hormones like serotonin and dopamine. Up to this I’ve had to depend on chocolate to activate the dopamine while others look to Broadband to do the trick.
But to be honest, I’m not too bothered personally about Broadband. I’ve lived half my life without a telephone and nearly a quarter of it without television, so I’m used to deprivation. I would be worried, however, that in the years ahead, the house will lose value without a reliable broadband service. So I’m suggesting that from this year on those of us who are not being connected should be exempt from the property tax until this dastardly discrimination is ended.
A reliable broadband connection was seen and presented as the lifeline to rural Ireland, the panacea for all our ills as post offices, shops, pubs, garda stations and schools closed down around us. I’m not sure if it’s that powerful, but apart from upgrading the severely disadvantaged area scheme and paying us just for living in the sticks, I can’t think of any other way right now of saving rural Ireland from reverting to woodland. A couple of decades ago when farmers started to leave the land in droves, we were worried about the countryside becoming a series of massive golf courses. No danger of that now though with this seemingly patchy approach to the provision of Broadband.
But, as the Government says, good things come to those who wait. The service will get to us all eventually if we just have a little bit of patience. But can we please stop playing the rural Ireland death throes card. MEP Mairead McGuiness says that the less said about the demise of rural Ireland the better. Turn a blind eye, if you can.
That’s rich coming from the very politicians who vowed to rescue us from oblivion. Despite having been promised a never -ending blood supply, some people, including lots of rural businesses will not be hooked up to the life support machine – at least not for now, and especially not, if they’re not located on a main road. Why can’t Richard Bruton, for instance, just tell the Broadband providers to stick up an ‘ould’ extra pole and connect up my friend - if only to shut her up. Either that, or bring back Denis Naughton!
The hit and miss situation will be a big issue in the forthcoming local and European elections. Hapless candidates, I’m told, who wander off the beaten track – which they have no problem in doing at election time - will be slaughtered on the doorsteps by rural electors gasping for Broadband.
I’m investing in a pair of knitting needles straight away. There’s a disturbing dystopian feel to all this and I’m not sure if I can handle it.