Broadband shambles is keeping rural
SO we’ve morphed from a Celtic Tiger into a Celtic Phoenix. That’s the best way the economists are able to label the fact that we’ve more disposable income per household than at the height of the boom, and that there’s as many people back in employment now as there ever was.
Indeed, I’m starting to get calls from employers that have more than a passing resemblance to ones I fielded a decade ago. Staff ‘can’t be got’ and we should open the floodgates to China, Thailand and beyond.
At home here I’ve still got a crew of Romanian workers who are now into top gear in the daffodil picking season with up to 200,000 stems being individually hand-picked per day. It’s what some might term ‘hardy’ work bent over for hours picking flowers in all weathers in January.
I’m lucky to have a good crew and it leaves me inclined to believe that there are plenty of people more than willing to work hard for the minimum wage still within the borders of the EU.
A weekly cheque for €400 might not seem like a lot of money for Irish people, but I’m told that it is still the equivalent of a month’s salary for my crew if they were back home in Romania.
But there are all kinds of glaring disparities in our ‘phoenix’ economy.
If I don’t hit the road by 6.30am, my journey time into the city centre doubles with the volume of traffic queuing along the M1 and every other major road artery heading into the capital.
But out in the country rural towns and villages are as quiet as ever. On my days out filming for Ear to the Ground I see plenty of boarded-up shops, closed pubs and abandoned commercial sites.
Even though I’m only 40km north of O’Connell Street in Dublin city centre, I also experience firsthand some of the handicaps that are keeping the rural economy on the hind teat.
The debacle that it is the rollout of the national broadband network is a case in point.
Earlier this month I got an email from my internet provider to inform me that we had breached the 60Gb limit on the dongle in the house by 20Gb and a surcharge of €933 would be applied on top of my regular monthly bill of €35.
I was gobsmacked. Cue some pretty curt exchanges with the two ladies in my life — my wife and her 18-year-old Kiwi niece that has moved in with us for a couple of months.
This wasn’t the first time that I had been hit with a data surcharge. Because some lazy engineer overlooked the cul-de-sac that I live on, the broadband speed available through the landline is actually lower than that available through the dongle.
So we are totally reliant on dongles for internet coverage.
For the last number of years I have continuously cranked up the monthly allowance and, of course, consequent payment to cover the increasing amount of daily living that has drifted online.
I thought we had learned all the pitfalls: that you can opt for lower quality streaming on Netflix that doesn’t use as much data; that every hour of streaming video is about 1G