Irish technology students angry at broadband denial

21 Apr 2008

Two Sligo IT college students will be representing Ireland at this year’s Imagine Cup, a well-renowned, international technology competition sponsored by Microsoft, and imagination is what they need when it comes to broadband availability in their home county, said team captain, Kieran Stafford.

“Christina Luminea and I are two students who have won the Imagine Cup and we are about to represent Ireland in the world finals and neither of us have broadband,” said Stafford.

Stafford lives 20 miles from Sligo town and said he has no choice but to use mobile broadband because there is no wireless or fixed-line option available: “Wireless broadband here constantly fails. At night it stops – I can’t use it.

“Minister Eamon Ryan is in denial. He is telling the world we have the fastest take-up of mobile broadband in Europe but that is because none of us have access to decent DSL!”

Stafford said the fact that he and Luminea are flying the flag for Ireland in a well-renowned technology competition while neither have broadband is “absolutely scandalous”.

Many people do not have fixed-line broadband so they are all trying to cram onto a mobile broadband network that falls down because of the sheer weight of users, said Stafford. “I am paying €40 per month for mobile broadband that doesn’t work,” he added.

What angers software engineering student Stafford most of all is Minister Eamon Ryan’s aspiration to get the entire nation on a 1Mbps broadband connection.

“1Mbps is 10 years ago! In Japan, they are trialling 100Mbps – using the internet to do live audio recordings across the world so musicians can collaborate in real-time over the web and they are doing this for US$10 a month.”

Stafford’s team will be bringing its ParkIT project to the Imagine Cup world final in France later this year. ParkIT works by taking live feeds from cameras in a car park and digitally analysing this to determine how many free car parking spaces are available.

This information is stored on a server and can be fed into a mobile device such as a motorists’ SatNav or mobile handset, telling them in real-time if there are spaces available with the aim of reducing time spent driving in circles to find parking.

Stafford said this data could potentially be further used and moulded into a premium service to estimate the nearest car park with the most ideal parking spot for an individual motorist.

By Marie Boran