Digital divide: Ireland falls to lowest position yet on global broadband rankings

25 Jun 2012

New figures from Ookla Net index show Ireland has fallen to 56th position in the world for download speeds, its worst showing yet, and a clear indication as any that as the nations of the world accelerate towards faster speeds Ireland is falling behind.

According to the Index, Ireland is 56th in the world for download speeds and 24th out of 27 in the EU (51st/24th Q1 2012).

Ireland is 80th in the world for upload speeds and 23rd out of 27 in the EU (74th/24th Q1 2012). Ireland is 25th in the world for quality and 12th of 22 in the EU (23rd/12th Q1 2012). Ireland is 43rd in the world in terms of cost per Mbps and 25th out of 27 in the EU (43rd/26th Q1 2012).

According to lobby group IrelandOffline, bandwidth in Ireland costs 188pc of the average EU cost and 238pc of the median EU cost. These figures were 184pc and 211pc in the first quarter of 2012.

IrelandOffline’s chairman Eamonn Wallace warned that as speeds fail to keep pace, bandwidth costs are rising relative to EU peers, with costs up 10pc relative to the EU median.

Ireland’s broadband performance mirrors Euro 2012

Wallace lashed out at Ireland’s heavy reliance on mobile broadband, with typical delivery speeds of only 2Mbps for which the average customer pays US$25 per month.

“This divide is growing at a huge rate and those sentenced to use mobile midband and satellite are feeling the pain,” Wallace railed.

“Third-world solutions are not suitable for the so-called ‘Internet capital of Europe’. Satellite has its place but not at the heart of a broadband policy, think 1000km out on the Atlantic, perhaps?”

“Estonia, for instance, has rolled out fibre throughout its country and is pitching on the world stage to be the real internet capital of Europe, leaving us in the last century,” he warned.

He said Ireland’s broadband performance to date mirrors the nation’s performance at the recent Euro 2012 matches.

“Like the Irish football team at the 2012 Euros, everybody is willing Ireland on but nobody wants to take charge of the situation and put a realistic plan in place, we generate excuse after excuse as reasons for doing nothing.

“Meanwhile, Estonia has stolen our ‘Internet Capital’ crown by actually rolling out fibre across their country. This, too, is a country that has suffered greatly in the ‘economic crash’ yet they have the foresight and political will to see that ubiquitous fibre is a building block in the search for economic growth.

“As is outlined in our report, many countries are passing us out, we need action now,” Wallace said.

A damning verdict

Despite repeated warnings in the last few years, Ireland now finds itself on the losing side of a digital divide.

Official Ireland and communications ministers of various political hue failed to spot the danger or the opportunity or just wouldn’t listen because quite honestly, I doubt they understood the importance of broadband technology in the first place or it wasn’t populist enough an issue.

Meanwhile, various telecoms companies and broadband providers would venture from behind their corporate PR stockades occasionally to make roaring noises or soothing sounds depending on what their P&L required at the time.

Already Irish citizens who could be eligible for some of the latest job opportunities of the 21st century are finding themselves eliminated before they land the first job interview. Is this not enough of a populist issue now that hundreds of thousands are out of work?

Let’s hope that the final report and action plan of the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce due out any week now from Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte’s department will endeavour to try fixing a problem that could have long ago been avoided.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years