Govt to set NGN broadband targets and deadlines

18 Jun 2011

The Next Generational Broadband Taskforce has six months to “put flesh on the bones” of plans to move Ireland from basic broadband to ensure faster broadband everywhere, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD, said last night.

Launching a new metropolitan area network in Claremorris, Co Mayo, yesterday, Rabbitte said the key is to be certain of minimum speed targets and know when they can be available.

Earlier this week he convened a taskforce consisting of industry CEOs and department officials, and said he intended to see Ireland achieve EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes’ targets of 30Mbps broadband to all citizens and 50pc of citizens subscribing to 100Mbps by 2020.

Rabbitte stressed the Government’s commitment to high-speed connectivity nationwide. “Simply put, we want to ensure faster broadband everywhere soon.

“Earlier this week, we held the first meeting of a taskforce bringing together the CEOs of all major telecoms companies in Ireland to chart the future of high-speed broadband roll out. I was heartened to hear, in outline, the extent of the plans for investment and new technology which the companies are planning.

After a decade or more of slow broadband market development, the existing infrastructure picture belies Ireland’s status as the internet capital of Europe.

There is a clear gap between urban locations, where cyber giants like Google and Facebook and many others have cutting-edge services and rural locations, where lack of infrastructure is impeding economic recovery.

IrelandOffline this week quoted Ookla Net Index data that showed Ireland is 79th in the world for upload speeds and 24th in the EU.

For download speeds, Ireland is 49th in the world and 23rd out of the EU-27. In terms of broadband quality, Ireland is 38th in the world and 18th out of the EU nations.

Rabbitte’s broadband challenge

“Over the next six months, the challenge for the taskforce is to put flesh on those bones,” Rabbitte said yesterday.

“We need to be certain of exactly what minimum broadband speeds we can expect and by what deadlines they will be available. We want to hear about the barriers that telecoms companies encounter in rolling out new services and what Government needs to do to address those barriers. And we also want to hear views on the best policy environment to ensure maximum investment by the sector. At last Monday’s meeting, we agreed to set up working groups to take on these issues over the next few months.

“Clearly, the risk of gaps in broadband coverage is greater in rural regions, where low population density makes investment less appealing to private operators. That is why the Government gets involved – by building MANs in towns, such as Claremorris, and by initiatives, such as the National and Rural Broadband Schemes, we are ensuring the most remote homes and businesses in the state can access basic broadband.”

The minister noted that his department is accepting applications for the Rural Broadband Scheme until 29 July.

“Having achieved at least a basic broadband service available to almost every premises in Ireland, we now need to work closely with industry to accelerate the rollout of high-speed broadband to every region. This is a clear policy priority,” Rabbitte said.

Rabbitte has his work cut out for him, but he appears keen to grasp the nettle.

The next six months will decide if Ireland is going to resolve this issue for once and for all. If not, then we face another decade of rhetoric and delay.

We don’t require ordinary broadband in Ireland. Basic broadband just won’t cut it. We require extraordinary, super-fast broadband as a competitive economic weapon.

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