New legislation may be needed to resolve the local loop unbundling (LLU) issue, Communications Minster Noel Dempsey TD has warned.
Speaking yesterday at the Telecoms and Internet Federation (TIF) annual conference in Dublin, the minister restated the commitment of the Government to LLU – the so-called last mile of Eircom’s copper network into homes and businesses.
“As far as the Government is concerned, the fastest rollout of LLU is what needs to be achieved,” insisted the minister.
He then alluded to the latest twist in the LLU saga – Eircom’s assessment on Monday that it would take 18 months and €13m for it to unbundle its network for use by other operators. Minister Dempsey said that he had had a meeting with the Commission for Communications Regulation on Tuesday and had instructed the telecoms regulator to consider the Eircom document and then come up with a recommended course of action. “If that entails changes in legislation this will be fully considered by Government. I want to ensure this country does not move any further behind than it is in relation to the rollout of broadband.”
Addressing the same conference later, Eircom CEO Philip Nolan made no reference whatever to the LLU issue. Instead he made a general call for a light regulatory touch in the Irish market, arguing that all telecoms operators including Eircom would only invest in infrastructure if the Government created a conducive environment. “Regulation must recognise this when dealing with industry. Give us an environment that encourages investment, give us some hope of recovering our capital expenditure.”
He insisted nevertheless that Eircom “stands fully behind broadband in Ireland” and was “making broadband a reality” having already connected 140,000 users to broadband. To see through its strategy, however, it would need to keep investing in its network but this it could only do in an environment that was investment friendly.
By Brian Skelly