The lack of proper broadband infrastructure in the county is delaying new investment and current enterprises from expanding, it was said this week. At the February meeting of the economic development and enterprise support strategic policy committee of Mayo County Council the issue was raised by a number of councillors.
Fianna Fáil councillor Lisa Chambers told the committee: “The importance and necessity of broadband in the county has to be addressed. I know it’s being rolled out, but there is talk of 2020 before some areas in the county will get it. In this day and age if you can’t access your emails, it’s not good enough. If we’re trying to attract and support entrepreneurship, ensuring work life balances, and having people working from home it’s what we need to work on. How do we assist that, we need to formulate some plan to let the relevant authority know what we need and get that 2020 date rolled back. Some of the places that are being very focused on are very small areas, and if you live 1km outside these areas you’re not covered. Schools even, I don’t know how they can now operate without broadband.”
Sinn Féin councillor Rose Conway Walsh added: “There are many great companies and business people here who have to run around the house and try and get a phone signal. There needs to be an absolute alignment with all our functions in Mayo County Council, our roads infrastructure, our broadband infrastructure, so we can play a role. I don’t want to see us going all over the world and bringing back people with expectations and then they can’t use their mobile phone or can’t get even basic broadband.”
Neil O’Neal, the Chambers of Commerce representative on the committee, agreed saying: “The issues that have been identified by the chambers from around the county are obvious, as has been said. How can you be expected to bring in direct investment when people are running around trying to get phone signals or there’s no broadband here. Those are preliminary issues that you have to get solved, it’s a chicken and egg issue, if you don’t solve those how can you expect it to come.”
Town centres need support
The issue of the decline of traditional town centres in towns around the county was also raised. Fine Gael councillor Tom Connolly told the meeting: “In my own town in Claremorris, the retail sector is suffering terribly. I think something really needs to be done to support them. It needs to be addressed. We have to look at rates reductions and the like to help them grow.” While O’Neal added: “Town centre renewal is essential, traditional town centres are dying on their feet in Ireland, that’s a major issue.”
Cllr Conway Walsh added that: “Retail and small business is something we need to work on because so many of the grants aren’t available to them. If you’ve got a till in the place, you’re excluded. It’s nonsense.”