All posts by Catriona Curran

Local council worries that rural areas will not benefit from Broadband improvement plans

The Fermanagh and Omagh council are worried that a project planning to improve broadband in Northern Ireland will not benefit rural areas.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have collaboratively invested £23.7m into a project to improve broadband in Northern Ireland.

The project, called the Northern Ireland Broadband Improvement Project (NIBIP) will aim to increase the availability of Superfast Broadband in areas were internet connectivity is currently poor or low.

The project will introduce a new broadband system into Northern Ireland called fibre optic broadband (or Superfast Broadband) which uses fibre optic cables to increase the speed of internet connections. The introduction of the fibre broadband connection will be delivered through two different types of infrastructures:

fibre-street-cabinet

Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC)

Through this method, fibre optic cables are connected from the telephone exchange or distribution point to an existing or new roadside cabinet (see the photograph above).

Fibre to the home/premises (FTTH or FTTP)

This will provide an end-to-end fibre optic connection. It will run the full distance from the exchange to the home or business premises.

Below is a video explaining the connection process

 

The project will be implemented into designated areas of Northern Ireland in accordance to household and business postcodes. The DETI has explained that this method of delivery has been used to accommodate the large area in which the project is planning to cover. The project will be implemented in eight phases between February 2014 and December 2015. This process will see some postcodes enabled before others. Some postcodes have even been left off the list altogether. This has caused concern among those who have been left off the list and will miss out on the broadband improvements.

See if your postcode is included on the list: http://www.online.detini.gov.uk/Broadband/Start.aspx 

The Fermanagh and Omagh council have raised concerns about this project. They believe rural areas, which would account for most of their council area, will not benefit from these improvements. In particular, they blame the fact that the project, and previous projects, have not being ring-fenced specifically for rural areas.

The DETI have defneded the projects decisions to pinpoint certain areas for improvement. They said they conducted extensive research before deciding which areas to target through the project. These assessments were carried out in conjunction with B.T. They evaluated financial and technical constraints, and ‘the best possible use of public funding’ to achieve best value for money.

Arlene Foster, Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment has directly responded to the issues raised by the council. She has stated that although it is thought by some that rural areas are not being targeted, she believes, “that is not the case”. In a letter to the council she emphasized that this project is specifically geared towards helping rural areas. The letter also pointed out that, to date the project has improved broadband access in over 17,500 homes, including 3,000 homes in the Fermanagh and Omagh Council area.

The Enterprise Minister admitted that after the completion of the NIBIP, “the needs of all premises may not be met”. She explained that in light of this the DETI is planning to fund a further project with an investment of over £14m to continue to work and increase the reach of Superfast Broadband by 2017. She added that this additional investment will also include improving internet connection for postcodes within the Fermanagh and Omagh area.

The concerns raised by the council are not stand alone as they have been echoed by concerned residents of the council area.

Ann Curran, who lives in the countryside in Fermanagh believes she would be better off not having any internet than paying for a service which she calls “temperamental”. She explains that her sons who are studying for their GCSE’s depend on the internet for their school work. Mrs Curran said she feels a constant sense of frustration when trying to connect to her internet. And on occasions the lack of internet in their home has resulted in her sons not being able to complete their school assignments.

She said, “It’s not fair that we are paying the same price for internet as everyone else, yet we can go for days at a time without the right access”. When asked about her feelings towards the NIBIP, she said, “I would really love for it to happen (the broadband improvements) but I have been disappointed with these sorts of promises before. The internet in the town might improve with it but I doubt us being in the countryside will get any of the benefits”.

Another rural B.T Broadband user uploaded a video about her internet experiences to youtube in the form of a comical short which won her competition with NI Broadband in 2013.

First Ever GAA World Games Take Place

The first ever Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) World Games took place in Abu Dhabi last weekend.

Twenty-five teams from across the globe gathered to compete in games of traditional Irish sports, including Gaelic football, hurling, camogie and rounders.

The competition, played over two days, started on Friday 6 March and ended with a day of semi-finals and finals on Saturday 7 March. The event was hosted by Abu Dhabi Na Fianna at the Zayed Sports City, which has hosted major sporting events, such as the Fifa Club World Cup.

Trevor Buckley, chairperson of Abu Dhabi Na Fianna said, “It reflects the globalisation of the games and is representative of the amount of Irish people worldwide who’ve had to emigrate for various reasons. The fact we’re trying to promote the games and keep everyone involved is very special to us and a great honour.”

He went on to say, “The response has been very positive, especially since it’s the first Games and a lot of teams have travelled huge distances to take part. That shows its appeal. And even though the numbers are quite large already, we hope they will continue to grow in the future.”

Erin Loughnana travelled from Toronto to represent Canada in the games. She said the diversity of the teams was clear when they were discussing the training preparation of the different teams. The Middle East team was accustomed to training in the desert climate of Abu Dhabi, while the Canadian national team held their preparation training indoors, due to the -3 degrees weather in Toronto.

The competition has been hailed as a forward step in the globalisation of Gaelic games with male and female athletes from North America, South America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Mainland Europe, South Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Middle East all taking part. The World Games hopes to follow the path made by other international fixtures such as the International Rules Series between Ireland and Australia, and the All Stars game, played in Boston.

The winners of the tournament was dominated by the Middle East teams. The men’s finalists were the both of the Middle East’s entrants, with the seconds’ team coming out as the victors.

For more information on the GAA World Games follow the event on Facebook or Twitter.

50 Shades Of Grey Review

Valentine’s Day marked the release of the much anticipated 50 Shades of Grey, the film adaption of E.L. James’s erotic romance novel, which has sold over 100 million copies worldwide.

 Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey, a successful Billionaire businessman, with a need to control all things sexual and otherwise. Dornan has previously played the role of serial killer, Paul Spector in BBC drama The Fallwhich led him nicely into this equally complex and at times disturbing character of Mr Grey. The actor who has modelled for Armani is easy on the eyes and leaves the female population ready to trade places with Ana Steele. Dornan stars opposite Dakota Johnston, who has an air of awkwardness which actually makes for effective viewing and adds a sense of real and relate-ability to the character of Anastasia.

The sex scenes were eagerly anticipated, simply because so many wondered how far the movie would push the boundaries. For a majority of the time, they were a perfect balance of artistic insinuation and to the point shockers. However, one scene is an exception to the rule, and I found myself tense and uncomfortable, as the film explored the all too realistic theme of sadism. None the less, the scenes were shot with the view to outline the surface of lust motivation while also portraying underlying emotions which help link the sexual scenes to much a deeper storyline.

The people behind this movie had brilliantly used the large reading audience of this story to their advantage. They were aware that it would be pointless to try and hide any information and allow the movie plot to ‘unfold’, because unless you live under a rock you know what 50 Shades of Grey is about. Instead, they allowed Mr Grey to release hints in front of the unknowing Ana and this allowed the audience to be involved in the ‘inside joke’. Such as when Mr Grey goes to the Hardware store to buy cable ties, rope and duct tape.

At the risk of giving too much away I’ll stop before divulging any more information. All that I will say, is that coming out of the cinema most of the patrons were saying, “I wish I had a Mr Grey. Perhaps there really is something irresistible about a man with money, power and an air of self-assured confidence, and looking like Jamie Dornan helped too I suppose.