ComReg rules increase standard of dial-up

8 Sep 2005

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has set out new rules that direct Eircom to ensure a minimum data rate of 28.8Kbps for functional internet access. However, while welcoming the move, broadband lobby group Ireland Offline said the massive rate of line failure still needs to be resolved to ensure availability of broadband for all.

Effectively the decision by ComReg in respect of universal service obligations (USO) to be met by Eircom, which follows a public consultation, raises the bar in terms of the standard of connections Eircom is obliged to provide the public.

The regulator has directed all connections that involve expenditure of less than €7,000 be provided for the standard connection charge and wherever the cost exceeds that amount, applicants should be able to get service by paying the excess.

In terms of functional internet access, ComReg directed Eircom to use “all reasonable endeavours” to ensure a minimum data rate of 28.8Kbps.

It said that under EU legislation the provision of broadband is not a feature of an incumbent’s USO, which is confined to a single narrowband connection. ComReg commissioner Mike Byrne stated last night: “A prominent issue in the views expressed on the consultation was the availability of broadband. While the measures relate only to narrowband dial-up data speeds, ComReg has sought to ensure that the measures do not detract from the priority and investment focused on meeting the national objective in relation to broadband rollout.”

Last year reported the issue of pair gain — a standard practice in the telecoms industry in the Eighties and Nineties — whereby in order to economise on the amount of copper wire going into each home lines were split. In effect, homes with phone lines were unknowingly sharing capacity with neighbours even though they are paying a monthly line rental fee for the privilege of a phone line. As a result, while one home could receive DSL, their neighbours couldn’t. It was estimated at the time that less than 50pc of the 1.7 million lines in Ireland were capable of receiving DSL.

According to new data from IrelandOffline, broadband line failure rates in Ireland stand at 23pc in mostly urban areas. In Northern Ireland, the failure rate is less than 0.05pc. The lobby group called for stronger directives to eradicate the line failure rates in the State.

In its submission on the minimum data speed to ComReg, IrelandOffline proposed a requirement that all phone lines would be capable of carrying a broadband signal. This would then address almost all of the 23pc of people connected to broadband exchanges who cannot avail of broadband because of poor lines. It further proposed that anyone whose line that did not reach the minimum quality standard should be entitled to a discount or compensation.

Martin Harran, spokesman for Ireland Offline, stated: “In the Eighties, Ireland had a telephone network that was the envy of the rest of the world. Just 20 years on, we have slipped well behind the rest of the world with a network that is still using Nineties technology.”

By John Kennedy