Limerick TD critical of ‘cloak of secrecy’ around mobile phone blackspots

Donal O’Regan

Reporter:

Donal O’Regan

‘Cloak of secrecy’: Niall Collins

‘Cloak of secrecy’: Niall Collins

ONE BAR to rural communities developing is the lack of mobile phone signal in many areas, says Limerick TD Niall Collins.

His Fianna Fail colleague, Dara Calleary tabled a Dail question asking for the details of each local authority that has mapped local mobile phone blackspots. The reply from Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring shows that Limerick City and County Council was one of 17 local authorities to respond. They say that there are 36 blackspots in Limerick. The county was the fourth highest after Longford, Galway and Kerry.

Minister Ring said: “My officials, in conjunction with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, are actively engaged with local authorities and mobile phone operators to identify priority blackspots and take action to address this issue.

“During 2017, officials of both Departments worked with a group of local authorities to identify the issues associated with mapping local blackspots. Building on this exercise, a call was issued to all local authorities in 2018 to map local blackspots and identify infrastructure that could potentially be used to improve telecommunications services.”

Deputy Collins says we all know villages where the mobile reception is very bad or non-existent.

“The government and the mobile phone providers are treating parts of County Limerick like second class citizens. They don’t provide adequate broadband and there is no proper phone coverage to compensate for the lack of broadband. For the majority of people living in rural areas mobile phones are as essential as a car in everyday life,” said Deputy Collins, who tabled a Dail question asking for the list of mobile phone blackspots in County Limerick.

Minister Ring declined to do do, saying while the exercise was informative, it was “not comprehensive”.

“Of the thirty one local authorities, only seventeen returned data to feed into the exercise. The majority did not have the capacity to carry out technical testing. Furthermore, the methods used to collect the data varied. Simultaneously, mobile network operators and infrastructure providers were increasing the number of mobile phone sites in service, as well as upgrading existing networks. As a consequence, the data collected in 2018 only represented a snapshot in time for certain areas and could not be interpreted as a definitive source of information regarding mobile phone blackspots. Nor would it be a fair reflection of the current situation, as network developments are taking place on an on-going basis,” he replied.

The council had not supplied the information following a media query at the time of going to press. Deputy Collins said he couldn’t understand the “cloak of secrecy”.