A DONEGAL-based businessman says the county is falling behind because of its dreadful internet connections.
Dragon’s Den star Peter Casey says he couldn’t do international video interviews from his Inishowen recruitment company base – because they couldn’t guarantee the connection.
He said it was 2010 before we got anything consistently better than dial-up – and today, while a major provider offers a fibre optic system capable of 50 Mbps (megabits per second), “by the time it gets to our copper-wire “last mile”, it’s reduced to 6.5 Mbps down and just .5 up – far behind just about any internet-intensive businesses elsewhere on the planet.”
Said Casey: “We have recently invested in cutting-edge technology that will allow us to conduct live interviews with anyone on the planet.
“However, we won’t be able to use it in our Irish HQ (in Lisfannon) with its current connectivity unless we want to create a very bad impression with people that we want to hire for our clients.
“This also reflects badly on our reputation as a high quality provider.
“I grew up in Derry and came to know and love Donegal from a very young age.
“I’ve invested my money, mind, heart and sweat here. My business is here. Although it’s a business that depends more than many on digital connectivity, it is still here.
“But the digital infrastructure the Government has promised us for a long time now is not. And that, for me, is a major problem.”
He said Dubliners on cable can get internet connections 50 times faster, complaining: “The democratic proposition that the internet gives everyone an equal opportunity to access information, education, and commercial opportunity is a myth.
“Internet access depends as much on physical space as it does on cyberspace. The best speeds are delivered by fibre or cable. Live at any distance from urban Ireland, and you won’t get anything approaching the fastest service.
“Rural Ireland is on the wrong side of a vast digital divide. On the right side is well-connected continental Europe as well as urban Ireland. Those of us in the country? We’re a world away from both places. A third world away, in fact.
“Take a look at the amount of empty business premises in the typical village or town these days.
“We cannot let this go on. A recent World Bank study found that for every 10-percentage-point increase in the penetration of broadband there is an increase of 1.3 percentage points in economic growth.
“Broadband is essential to business and very good for any country. If only the cities have it, the countryside suffers economically, culturally, and politically. Disconnected, lovely towns and quaint villages become places to leave.
“We are always boasting about our highly educated work force, but there is not much point in training people if they cannot communicate with each other and the rest of the world.
“This digital inequality between urban and rural communities is making the economic inequality between these regions even greater.”
In a weekend article Casey warned: “Quality, high-speed broadband is a necessity rather than a privilege in today’s society, and should be available in all areas, not just the largest.
“Otherwise, we are in danger of creating fast Ireland and slow Ireland, the latter seeing areas such as Donegal continuing to slide to the bottom of the economic table.”