Provider Open Eir confirmed that damage to the subsea cables providing the phoneline between the mainland and the island, means households on Sherkin have been without a landline service for more than six weeks.
Islanders face a continued delay before the service is reconnected as replacement cable is still being prepared in Spain.
However, Aisling Moran, community development officer for Sherkin, Heir and Long Islands, suggested that since replacement cable is required, laying fibre optic cable to facilitate broadband should also be considered: “It makes perfect sense to do it. It is going to cost them a fortune to go down to down and do that subsea cable. That was our point — if you are going to do it, spend it wisely.”
A spokesperson for Eir said: “Open Eir owns and maintains the underwater line from the mainland to Sherkin Island.
“This line was damaged in the recent Storm Ophelia, and 13 of the 26 working lines remain out of service as a result.
“Repairs are planned but as underwater cabling is required, this is dependent on several factors including weather, tides and availability of suitable boat and cable construction crew.
“We have ordered a special cable length which is currently being manufactured in Spain; repair times will be dependent on the delivery time of this cable but are expected to take a few weeks.
“This line is copper, and a fibre upgrade is not expected as part of this or any future works, and all offshore islands are included in the National Broadband Plan.”
The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment said Sherkin island — home to 106 people — is part of the National Broadband Plan, but that it cannot jump the queue: “The Department is in a formal procurement process to select a company or companies who will roll-out a new high-speed broadband network within the State led Intervention under the NBP. That process is now at an advanced stage.
“The ‘Detailed Solutions’ submitted by two bidders on September 26 are being evaluated by the NBP specialist team. The next stage in the procurement process is the receipt of final tenders followed by the appointment of a preferred bidder(s) and contract signature.
“As part of this procurement process, the bidder(s) will be required to submit their strategies, including timescales and plans to priority areas, for the network build and rollout.”
The spokesman for the Department said “access to high-speed broadband network will be provided as part of the network deployment” and “the successful bidder will be responsible for the provision of the access and backhaul infrastructure on wholesale basis”.
Ms Moran said that regarding Sherkin Island, “it is stuck in the NBP and we can’t move outside it.”
In the meantime, islanders are relying on mobile phone and wifi connections, despite some coverage blackspots.