Eircom is to launch an initiative to boost the number of lines that can be broadband-enabled per telephone exchange. Currently, even if an exchange is broadband-enabled, up to 22pc of the individual lines from that exchange are unfit to carry broadband.
From 27 May, any Eircom customer who is linked to a broadband-enabled exchange will be guaranteed a service so long as they place an order. The two exceptions will be customers who live too far from the exchange to receive broadband – the current limit for DSL coverage is 4.5km from an exchange – and those whose lines have been split to carry other operators.
Speaking to siliconrepublic.com, David McRedmond, commercial director of Eircom, said the initiative would allow the percentage of broadband-ready lines to be increased from 78pc to 90pc. “We’re calling it the amber programme. Currently customers are given either a green light – yes they can receive broadband or a red light to say no they can’t. Now we’re saying to them that they’ll qualify on the basis of a firm order.”
McRedmond added that getting up to 100pc was not realistic, given the physical limits of DSL technology, which meant that 4pc-5pc of lines from an exchange cannot receive broadband. On the line-splitting issue, he said that this was a problem that only ComReg could solve because currently Eircom has no economic incentive to replace the split line. “We need to find some regulatory solution to that. I’d like to see the regulator find some way to recognise the cost of removing those barriers, for example by reflecting it in the local loop unbundling price.”
On the wider issue of service availability, McRedmond argued that the Government’s own planning policies in relation to rural housing make it harder for it to achieve its broadband goals because one-off rural housing costs a lot more to provide with telecommunications and other services. He said that designating telecoms as an essential service in the way water and electricity is would help ease this problem.
“When you apply for planning permission it has to take into account the provision of services. If telecoms were designated as an essential service, it would have to be taken into account in planning applications and it would make it easier for [Eircom] to provide a service.”
He added that Eircom had lobbied both ComReg and the Department of Communications for such a change in designation, most recently at last Friday’s broadband conference in Galway.
By Brian Skelly