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Rural broadband blackout forces farmers to use car-park WiFi hotspots

Farmers in Northern Ireland are having to use WiFi in supermarket car-parks to meet government demands for online reports.

Now the rural broadband not-spots are being targeted by fixed wireless links and satellite broadband for those beyond the reach of ADSL.

The Northern Ireland Assemblyman for the rural community in East Antrim brought the farmers’ plight to the attention of alternative internet providers Bluebox Broadband and Onwave.

Both companies have recently won funding to provide services to Northern Irish communities who can’t get broadband over their phone lines.

East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs Jnr and cows

Roy Beggs Jnr, East Antrim MLA, said: “I am very well aware of fixed-line broadband black spots between Gleno, Carrickfergus and Ballynure. Whilst improved broadband services have been promised by Government, many people in this and similar rural and even semi-rural locations remain isolated.

“Northern Ireland was meant to be first region in Europe to have 100 per cent access to high-speed internet. That has been an empty promise for those who are too far from an exchange to get ADSL broadband. Speaking from personal experience, some of the customer service failures from broadband providers have been appalling.”

Broadband not-spots

The broadband situation was worsened by the closure of a local Department of Angriculture and Rural Development office, so that farmers were forced to go online despite the lack of broadband connections.

“Broadband is becoming increasingly important to local farm businesses and has become more essential following the closure of the Larne DARD office,” Beggs added.

“There are increasing opportunities to complete returns on-line. I have been told that some farmers have resorted to using wi-fi hotspots in supermarket car parks rather than having to drive to the nearest office in Mallusk.”

Bluebox Broadband uses WiMAX to provide broadband over fixed microwave links to transmitters up to 25 miles away, with a network of masts across the province.

Onwave sells connections to Eutelsat’s Tooway satellite broadband service, which works at up to 10Mbps and also carries the new RTE free satellite TV service, Soarsat. 

Image by Flickr/ulsterunionist

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