ComReg expresses concern over line failures


8 Sep 2004

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The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has expressed its ‘concern’ over lack of information being given to consumers by Eircom following allegations that less than 50pc of phone lines in Ireland are capable of handling digital subscriber line (DSL) broadband due to being either too far from a local exchange or for failing line tests by Eircom engineers.

Eircom is required to furnish ComReg with statistical information on the number of telephone lines that fail signal tests for capability to carry DSL, or ‘always on’ high-speed internet access. However, under strict Eircom conditions, ComReg is prohibited from communicating these details to the general public.

In a statement to siliconrepublic.com, the regulator said: “ComReg is concerned at the lack of information given to prospective broadband customers whose telephone line “fails” for broadband. Eircom has stated that the reasons why a line fails can be due to a number of individual factors.

“ComReg understands that customers are not given a specific reason why their line fails and therefore are left with no information as to when or if they may obtain a DSL service in the future.

“ComReg has requested Eircom to examine the situation and to improve transparency for customers. ComReg has also requested details of statistics on line failures under the individual factors.”

It has been alleged by both Esat BT and lobby group Ireland Offline that one of the prime reasons phone lines are failing tests is due to the now forbidden practice of line splitting, otherwise known as ‘pair gain’ or putting a ‘carrier on the network’ that occurred up until 2001. Under this practice, up to 150 houses in an urban area where line splitting was practiced would, for example, share less than 100 copper paired lines to the local exchange.

While this was acceptable for making telephone calls, the advent of broadband meant that up to a third of houses in an urban area would be incapable of receiving DSL whilst next door neighbours could. The practice of line splitting was prohibited in 2001. However, it has been alleged that already existing split lines in Ireland’s PSTN network have not been replaced or upgraded.

As a result, both Esat BT and IrelandOffline allege that as many as 50pc of phone lines in Ireland are incapable of receiving DSL due to line splitting, distance from the nearest exchange and other factors such as equipment such as fax machines and Sky boxes affecting test signals.

An informed source told siliconrepublic.com that TDs and Senators are being “bombarded” with complaints from irate citizens who can’t receive DSL.

By John Kennedy