Up until a few months ago, salesman Tony Cullinane’s colleagues used to laugh about how bad his internet connection was during conference calls.
And they thought it was even funnier when he sorted the problem out.
But none of his colleagues are laughing anymore because they are now all so used to him talking to them...from his car.
He is one of a growing number of businessmen and women in parts of Cork who are being forced out of their homes in search of decent broadband since the Covid-19 lockdown led to unprecedented demand on the networks.
Typically, Mr Cullinane and others like him who live in Gaggin, just outside Bandon, are getting download speeds of less than 1MBps.
That’s less than the least they need for basic internet use to send and receive emails, use social media or make a Skype call.
As to downloading a movie like Donnie Brasco on iTunes? In the immortal words of Lefty, the cult gangster film’s central character played by Al Pacino . . . “forget about it”.
“It’s ridiculous in this day and age that if I want to make a conference call, I have to leave home to make it,” Mr Cullinane said.
“After lockdown started, I noticed there was a gradual deterioration of the signal in our area. So I drove around looking for places until I found one.”
He settled on the carpark of St Patrick’s Church.
And as he started working there for hours on end, he noticed another man sitting in his car working away on his laptop.
Eventually, the father-of-three introduced himself to James O’Regan, also a father-of-three.
And they were joined by a third business person, finance expert Maeve O’Sullivan-Kennedy.
They all work for between one and three hours a day in the car park, armed with their flasks of coffee, and their small mobile wifi units.
The last time Mr Cullinane did a speed test at home, he reached a download speed of 0.93 Mbps -megabits per second-.
In the church car park, he can get download speeds of around 100Mbps.
And it’s not just him who is impacted by the appalling speeds he gets at his home.
His 19-year-old daughter Eve used to use the car park to download her assignments during term time at her teacher training college.
And his 14-year-old son Ewan also had to use the car park for zoom calls while virtually schooling, and often he would have to be driven there separately by his wife if he had to attend virtual meetings at the same time his son needed to be online for class.
“James, whose children are all younger, thought it was funny the way I had to have so many members of my family come up as well,” Mr Cullinane said.
According to Switcher.ie, the price comparison website, the majority of broadband connections in Ireland are from about 24Mbps to 500Mbps.
Areas like Gaggin are in so-called amber locations around the country where 4g signal is patchy to pretty much non-existent.
And they are the target areas for the State Intervention of the National Broadband Plan.
Although the current plan is to roll out fast broadband to more than 500,000 homes over the next seven years, Communications Minister Richard Bruton announced in May he is in talks to accelerate the process.