Telecom’s Ring of Confidence in Ennis

The Clare Champion, Friday, October 10th, 1997

The decision of Telecom Éireann to proceed with the installation of a fibre-optic cable ring around Ennis, seven years ahead of schedule, is the first major step in the introduction of high-tech communications systems which will be part and parcel of the £15 million Information Age Town package.

By Austin Hobbs.

The fibre-optic ring will facilitate the transmission of date at high speed and is vital to the whole Information Age concept of communicating at the touch of a button. The cable will have the capacity to deal not only with anticipated growth in information technology in Ennis but any associated developments in the technological field over a much wider area of the county.

Telecom is also to set up a technology centre at a town centre location to showcase new telecommunications systems. Business people, schoolchildren and, quite literally, the man off the street, will be able to walk in and test such equipment.

Confirming that Telecom is to start work on the installation of the fibre-optic cable in the immediate future, Mr. Greg O’Brien said that a considerable amount of work had been earmarked for Ennis over the next few years but the Information Age success had caused them to revive their schedule.

"With Ennis winning the Information Age Town competition it means that we will be bringing forward many of our long term projects for the town and the fibre-optic cable is the first of these", remarked Mr. O’Brien. He explained that the Information Age had arrived would hit the people of Ennis when they saw Telecom personnel working on the roadside, laying the new cable.

Telecom’s Information Age spokesperson said another immediate benefit in Ennis would be the installation of state-of-the-art public phones to replace existing ones and phones at a number of new locations.

Referring to benifits which would accrue to householders in Ennis, Mr. O’ Brien said Telecom would be looking at innovative ways to give computer and phone technology on a special offer basis rather than totally free. Some aspects of the technology would be free, he added.

Ennis Chamber of Commerce President and Information Age Project Leader, T.J. Waters this week welcomed the fact that Telecom Éireann is set to lay the groundwork for Information Age developments in Ennis.

"Some of the high-tech facilities which we will get are available on a individual basis in some towns but Ennis is the first town in Ireland where everything will be available in one place", he said.

Mr. Waters said members of the Ennis project team would be meeting with Telecom Éireann officials next week to discuss the implementation of the £15 million Information Age package.

The project leader said that among the issues which would be addressed were concerns being raised by members of the public about the notion of "Free" computers and the boundary.

However, Mr. Waters said there would be a number of early hits which would bring almost immediate benefit to people in Ennis. "At present, 82 per cent of all households and businesses in the urban area have phones but those still without phones will be offered incentives to install one and will have free rental for a period", he said.

"All telephone subscribers will get free voice mail with call answering and call forwarding", he said.

Mr. Waters said they would educate people about the Information Age Town, starting first through schools and libraries where they could target young people who stood to gain most from the project. Also in the pipeline are plans to train people in computer technology with courses in schools, adult education programmes and FÁS-backed initiatives.

Mr. Waters said the project would be a failure if it remained confined to Ennis and he stressed that their intention was to roll it out into the county.

Information Age town project co-ordinator, Triona McInerney said the issues of boundary, technology and subsidisition would be addressed at next week’s meeting with Telecom.

"There would be no value in just giving out computers", said Ms. McInerney who added that the degree of subsidy per household had to be sorted out. "It is a community project and we want to get the maximum value from the £15 million investment and the maximum output in terms of usage", she added.

Meanwhile, at this week’s SIPTU conference in Ennis, the union’s incoming Director General, Des Geraghty said they hoped to be very much part of Information Age. "I am very ambitious about that idea and I hope our union will play it’s full part in Ennis", he said.

Mr. Geraghty said SIPTU hoped to stage early in the New Year a seminar on how workers might fare out in the Information Age. He was anxious that SIPTU would be part of the new technological development looming for Ennis.

"We are not rooted in the past. We are rooting our union in the future and part of our discussions at this conference is about how we relate ourselves to the new technological era, how we organise skilled workers and how we make our contribution", Mr. Geraghty said.

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