LANs across the water: How Three Ireland is getting Arranmore connected
The delivery of high-speed broadband will enhance the islanders’ ability to do business
Arranmore Island, Co Donegal: The 500-strong island community is vibrant and progressive, but the population continues to decline, mainly due to economic factors. Photograph: John Rafferty Photography
Imagine a digital divide so broad that a boat trip is necessary to obtain the bandwidth necessary to transfer large files. It may sound at least faintly ridiculous in this day and age, but that has been the situation for the inhabitants of Arranmore Island off Donegal up until now.
The 500-strong island community is vibrant and progressive, but the population continues to decline, mainly due to economic factors, according to Three Ireland business director Eoin MacManus. “There is a desire from people living on the island to remain on the island, and from people who have moved away to come home, but the lack of connectivity makes working from there extremely difficult,” he says.
Three has now stepped in to deliver that much-needed connectivity. “We heard about an initiative by Arranmore Community Council to increase level of commerce among island residents,” MacManus explains. “Arranmore represents a unique way of life and that’s worthy of support. Business is part of the lifeblood of a community. The more businesses you can encourage to set up and run, the better for people in terms of local spending and employment and attracting people to come to live on the island. And in business, the lifeblood is connectivity. Anything we could do to make a difference the better.”
Working in partnership with the community council, Three has delivered high-speed connections of up to 100Mbs to the island. “We approached it as if the island was a large enterprise customer and treated the community as a single entity,” he adds. “We worked with community representatives and businesses on the island to understand their needs and develop solutions for them. We looked at our own products and services and identified which ones could be of most help. Our aim is to deliver ubiquitous coverage to all populated areas of the island.”
The solutions provided by Three include high-speed broadband and technology for a state-of-the-art digital hub to facilitate remote working, and enhanced connectivity for local businesses, community facilities and the Athport National School to provide enhanced connectivity.
The Modam Digital Hub was established by the Arranmore Island Community Council and Donegal County Council as Ireland’s first offshore digital workspace. Three has installed a wireless leased line at the hub, a managed LAN (local area network) and managed firewall as well as video and tele-conferencing facilities. A number of business and remote workers have already started using the hub.
Students at Scoil Athphoirt will be able to use interactive whiteboards, research online and participate in online learning thanks to a new Three Business Broadband+ unit. Comharchumann Oileán Árainn Mhóir (Arranmore Co-Op) is also benefiting from a broadband unit, while Arranmore Ferry will be able to take card payments for the first time thanks to a new wifi-enabled payment point.People will be able to bring their businesses back to the island or work remotely from there
The island’s only hostel is another beneficiary. Guests had often remarked on the lack of internet access. “Three broadband will allow guests to connect to the internet and stay in touch with friends and family,” says MacManus. “It will also provide a vital business development channel for the hostel as it seeks to grow visitor numbers in the shoulder season.”
The broadband unit at the island’s medical centre will facilitate telemedicinal applications including video consultations with consultants on the mainland, saving patients a four-hour round trip to Letterkenny or overnight trip to Dublin. “I know of people on the island who have to travel to Dublin every few months for medical appointments,” says MacManus. “This takes two days each time. Using videoconferencing and other presence technologies, they can now do this from the comfort of the island.”
Our ethos is to create a better-connected life for people, whether that’s in their business, personal or social lives
There are also wider benefits. “It’s about encouraging people who might have grown up on the island and had to move away for work to consider moving back again as a sustainable option,” MacManus points out. “It will also encourage others to go and work there and set up new businesses. People will be able to bring their businesses back to the island or work remotely from there. I know of a few businesspeople considering moving back. The digital hub has just opened and it will facilitate remote and mobile working. The enhanced connectivity is potentially transformative and we are delighted to facilitate that. Our ethos is to create a better-connected life for people, whether that’s in their business, personal or social lives. There is no better embodiment of that than what we are doing on Arranmore Island.”