A MAJOR outage which affected the Vodafone phone and broadband network over a number of days last week has prompted renewed calls for better services for remote, rural communities.
Cathaoirleach of the Killaloe Municipal District, Councillor Pat Hayes said the lack of coverage had severely impacted hundreds of people over the course of last week. “Obviously, at the moment, we have many more people trying to work from home,” he noted. “Parents are home-schooling and their children have to be able to access the internet. For a lot of third-level students, their phone is their only means of getting online and from Tuesday to Friday of last week, people across East Clare had no reliable coverage. One farmer was telling me about how he relies on his phone to monitor his livestock remotely and that service wasn’t available to him for days. That’s a serious issue.”
The Fianna Fáil member said that when contacted the provider had responded, but not as promptly as local people might have liked. “To be fair, Vodafone reacted fairly well,” he said, “but the thing is that when I got through to customer support, after having to drive to a point where I could get phone coverage, I was put through to a call centre in Egypt. So when there’s a problem in Maghera, trying to find the solution lands you in Egypt. That’s all well and good, but it’s an awful loss in another way because previously, you’d be able to get some kind of an update on when services would be restored.”
Councillor Hayes outlined that finding a solution for those affected across North East Clare and into South Galway between Tuesday and Friday, required calls to council officials and Oireachtas members. “We had to try to push the situation higher up the line within the company,” he explained. “A very sizeable area was affected, all the way up into Gort and you’re talking about a number of remote communities who rely, during the pandemic especially, on their mobile phones. As we know, most household don’t have a fixed line any more and everyone in the house has a mobile at this stage.”
The Caher native acknowledged the efforts of everyone who worked to resolved the problem, but said the underlying issue of reliable rural services continued to cause concern. “We still have a situation for an awful lot of people where they have no broadband coverage from any provider,” he pointed out. “The National Broadband Plan is on the way, but that is taking time.”
Meanwhile, Councillor Hayes noted the success of the Digiclare hub at The Old Creamery in Feakle. “It’s very busy at the moment,” he noted. “It’s a fantastic service which has come into its own in recent months.”