The scourge of poor broadband coverage has again reared its head with more than half of workers surveyed in a new report suggesting bad connectivity has interfered with remote working.
A survey conducted by tax refund specialists Taxback.com found that 51% of more than 2,500 people across the country said they had experienced technical issues due to poor quality broadband in their home since lockdown was first implemented back in March.
Not surprisingly, workers in rural areas are worse off compared to their urban counterparts, the survey found.
Consumer tax manager at Taxback.com, Marian Ryan, said the pandemic has brought poor coverage into sharp focus.
“The results are split almost 50:50 between those who say they have experienced issues and those who haven’t, but what is interesting is the breakdown of where those who experience issues are located.
"37% of those who reported issues were located in rural areas and towns, and a further 14% were located in major cities.
“Unsurprisingly, it’s our colleagues who live outside the major cities who are most likely to suffer.
"This shows just how the unequal distribution of broadband around the country works to facilitate and create an opportunity for some, but not for others.
Ms Ryan said the lack of workplace expertise to solve IT issues was also problematic for employees.
“Many of the working population have had to adapt to a new way of working, with the lockdown resulting in 34% of the workforce having to work from home and 12% increasing their number of hours remote working from home since April.
“This has led to an increase in the use of technology for work, with far more video conferencing and online meetings and training being used now than ever before in many workplaces.
“As we no longer have the office IT department on hand, or even a colleague who we deem a bit more tech-savvy than ourselves to ask questions of when our tech lets us down, we were interested to get a glimpse into how the nation was coping with this adjustment,” she said.
Poor broadband and phone coverage in rural areas have seen some radical solutions implemented by some workers since working from home became the new normal, with employees in areas of West Cork having to sit in local car parks just to send vital emails.
The long-awaited National Broadband Plan (NBP), first mooted over a decade ago with many false starts since, is the Government’s plan to roll out high-speed broadband to 1.1 million people in the nearly 540,000 premises, including almost 100,000 businesses and farms.
The NBP will be delivered by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) under a contract signed last November, despite heavy criticism about the cost and viability of it.
Communications Minister Eamon Ryan in July said that by the end of 2021, NBI plans to pass in the region of 115,000 premises, with 70,000 to 100,000 passed each year thereafter until the rollout is completed.
All counties will see premises passed in the first two years and over 90% of premises in the State will have access to high-speed broadband within the next four years, he claimed.