Ireland needs to be better than average when it comes to broadband

22 Oct 2008

While Ireland has moved from just 5pc to 60pc of households with broadband connections, which places us above the OECD average, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resource, Eamon Ryan TD, yesterday told the telecoms industry that it needs to do better.

Minister Ryan (pictured), who was addressing yesterday’s annual Telecommunications and Internet Federation (TIF) Annual Conference in Dublin Caste, said the Government recognised the contribution of the technology industry to the country’s GDP today and going forward, and that supporting the growth of the knowledge economy is vital.

“Positioning Ireland as a knowledge economy is not just talk; it is backed up by investment in R&D,” he said, referring to the Government’s Budget decision to increase the R&D tax credit from 20pc to 25pc.

Future Human

“That R&D in this fast-changing industrial world will determine where new companies locate and new jobs are created.

“In terms of broadband, we have seen progress in the last year. For some time, we were not positioned where we wanted to be; internationally, we were not ahead of pack. Now we are slightly above the OECD average – we desperately had to do this.

“Now we need to set ambitions to be one of the leading countries in the world. We have over one million broadband connections – 60pc of households have it – and in terms of mobile broadband, we are leading the world because of our younger population. They have the ability to take on mobile apps, and this is a base on which we can build and aim to be one of the leading countries in the world.”

He said the NGN (Next-Generation Networks) policy paper, which will see over €400m invested in Ireland’s fibre assets, as well as creating an honest broker for access to Government assets such as ducting, will be of crucial importance to help the industry create an investment environment to build the networks we need.

“Ubiquitous availability of broadband is crucial here, no one in the country should be left behind.

“This should consist of public and private services – not marketing to 80pc, but to the whole country. The National Broadband Scheme is crucial to build out and ensure each area of the country is covered.”

The winning bidder for the National Broadband Scheme is expected to be announced in the coming days.

In terms of the Government policy on NGNs, the Minister said: “The proposal of a one-stop shop, a system of getting use from infrastructure assets, ducting and gas, is something we should progress at full speed. The Government will play a co-ordinating role, not favouring one company or technology over the other and ensuring the whole country benefits. This will be a crucial task for my department and the Government in the coming year.”

He commended the telecoms industry for the initiative it took in getting basic broadband services to schools. “It is now up to us in Government to ensure that in every classroom and school in country there is nothing restricting teachers to ensure the best educational opportunities for students.

He said that whiteboards, laptops and the ability for students to send in homework remotely should be universally achievable.

“Fundamental policy decisions to give students the opportunity to avail of next-generation networking, that’s a process now in train,” he said, referring to a part of his NGN policy paper that will see schools kitted out with 10Gbps networks.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resource, Eamon Ryan TD

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