"I have to climb into my tree-house to get Internet": The reality of rural broadband

Following the delay of the National Broadband Plan, we take a closer look at broadband in rural Ireland

We recently reported on the delay to the National Broadband Plan. The scheme, which was meant to be in place by 2020, may not be completed until 2022. Following this report, a school principle named Iseult Mangan sent in the following email:

“Iseult Mangan from Cloghan’s Hill National School in Mayo here, struck in shock at the delay in broadband. To say it has huge implications for us all is an understatement. We have ‘on-again / off-again 1mb broadband’ at school.

While at home with my three kids we have no broadband and can only get dial up. And I have a huge desire to drive technology in education.

My own school, despite our poor broadband had three finalists and a winner in the eir junior spiders on Monday, we have a finalist going to the national scratch final. My own daughter has already spoken about how unfair it is for her doing her work and what she wants to do. She feels she has an unfair access to Internet as she grows up.”

Struck by Iseult’s passion for e-learning, I decided to head west and visit her school, which is located on the boarder between Mayo and Galway. I walked into a classroom in Cloghan’s Hill National School and saw ten pupils sitting with either a laptop or tablet in front of them. Principle / teacher Mrs. Mangan had a laptop on her desk and I spotted Raspberry Pi units around the classroom.

The first person I spoke to was Iseult Mangan’s daughter, Aoibheann, who is 9 years old and in 4th class. Aoibheann explained to me that she and her classmates were working on a spelling programme, but sometimes it doesn’t work due to the poor broadband connection. I asked Aoibheann if she has Internet at home:

"Not really; it's just not very good” she explained. “Sometimes we have to go outside to get good Internet. One time I had to get into my tree house to get good Internet.”

And she was being deadly serious. Her mother told me that they have found they can access a semi-decent connection from their trampoline too.

In the classroom 

While their Internet is poor at home, it’s not much better in school. Iseult Mangan explained to me that they only receive speeds of 1mb. There are days when the connection cuts out completely. They went through a period of 7 weeks with no Internet at all. 

Despite their unfortunate luck in terms of connectivity, the school has a number of impressive achievements under its belt. They recent won awards at the eir Junior Spiders and many of the pupils have developed websites and other online projects. 

Listen to the full report here: