Frustrated senator to produce Broadband Bill

23 Jan 2008

If proposals to establish universal 20MB broadband coverage in Ireland by 2012 are adopted under a new Broadband Bill, some 85,000 new jobs could be created over the next 10 years.

Outspoken senator and business journalist Shane Ross last night said he intends to produce a bill on the subject before the Seanad, which if adopted could add 1.2pc to gross national product (GNP) over 20 years.

Ross attacked the “abject failure” of the Irish Government to provide a high-quality broadband service to every household and business in the country.

In 2000, the then minister for public enterprise, Mary O’Rourke, said the government had set a target of having every household in the country kitted out with 5MB of broadband by 2005.

Zoom forward to 2008 and the average broadband connection stands at 1MB, which is considered last generation in many countries. Ireland is also still behind the European average and according to Eurostat figures, 31pc of households here have broadband, compared with the EU27 average of 42pc.

In addition, contracts to provide the last 15pc of Ireland not served with broadband under the Government’s National Broadband Strategy, announced mid-last year, will not be awarded until half way through this year.

Senator Ross said he has been moved to produce a Broadband Bill, which proposes universal 5MB connectivity by 2009 and 20MB by 2012, out of sheer frustration.

“The Government and the rest of the luddites in Leinster House have failed to recognise the importance of broadband for Ireland’s future prospects,” he railed. “Their smug complacency will cost us.”

Ross’ bill proposes establishing a national broadband network that will include all public and private infrastructure.

It proposes the establishment of a National Broadband Commission composed primarily of consumers of broadband to oversee the enforcement of the bill. Membership of the Commission should be approved by the Joint Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and it should report each year directly to the Minister for Communications.

Ross also proposes regulatory reform that includes increased power for the Commission for communications regulation to guarantee free competition in broadband provision.

The Senator says that not only will universal broadband create 85,000 new jobs and boost economic growth, it will also improve quality of life and provide “unimaginable opportunities” for all citizens.

“Failure to adopt this Bill will see Ireland continue to head in the wrong direction. It is a dangerous time for the world economy,” Senator Ross warned.

By John Kennedy