Piltown and Fiddown, villages in Co Kilkenny, have built a community-owned broadband network after they failed to be included for investment under the National Broadband Plan.
The Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network will supply 750 homes and businesses in a 3.4 square kilometre area, with access to at least 150MB speeds and a future-proofed high-speed broadband service.
Before this, speeds were between 1MB and 6MB. However, the two villages are among approximately 20 similar-sized villages and towns in Kilkenny classified on an EU standard as having “adequate broadband”.
The FTTP broadband network is managed by Broadband 4 Our Community (B4OC), which is a locally-based, not-for-profit company whose board of volunteers came together following a town hall meeting organised by Piltown Community Enterprise in 2019.
Businesses such as Iverk Produce/O’Shea Farms, which is one of the largest suppliers of fresh fruit and vegetables in Ireland, and a host of other small- and medium-sized enterprises in the locality will benefit from the broadband service and infrastructure.
Project manager of Broadband 4 our Community Jim O’Brien says the buy-in from local businesses and the wider community has been incredible.
Doing it mostly ourselves meant that our costs were greatly reduced
Broadband 4 Our Community chair Brian Doyle said: “This is a network in which our community is invested.
“Doing it mostly ourselves meant that our costs were greatly reduced. This is a service by the community, for the community, which is owned by the community and run in its interest.
"It is a much leaner development model and operates on a not-for profit community-owned basis.
"We even hope to be able to pay a community dividend and the intention is that this money would finance other community projects.”
Funding was made available by Kilkenny Leader Partnership and Piltown community enterprise put together a steering committee to investigate the viability of installing our a community fibre broadband infrastructure.
The project has received significant loan capital from local businesses, as well as attracting a match-funding contribution from the philanthropic trust.
Kilkenny Leader Partnership CEO Declan Rice said: “Community development and ownership of future-proofed FTTP networks should be as familiar as local group water schemes, of which there are many hundreds.
"Installing FTTP networks is not rocket science. In many ways, it’s easier than a group water scheme to install," he said.
Kate Foley works in the office at O’Shea Farms/Iverk Produce, one of the connected companies in the locality now reaping the rewards.
She said: “Since we were hooked up, we haven’t dropped connection once and have found it 100% reliable.
"Quality broadband is critical for a business like ours that employs around 95 at O’Shea Farms and a further 60 in Iverk Produce."