A spokesman for the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources has described the controversy surrounding growing complaints of line failures for broadband as an “operational matter” and a “challenge facing Eircom”.
Last week siliconrepublic.com reported on claims that less than 50pc of phone lines in Ireland are capable of handling DSL broadband due to being either too far from a local exchange or for failing line tests by Eircom engineers.
It has been alleged by both Esat BT and lobby group Ireland Offline that one of the prime reasons phone lines are failing tests is due to the now forbidden practice of line splitting, otherwise known as pair gain or putting a carrier on the network. Under this practice, up to 150 houses in an urban area where line splitting was practised would, for example, share fewer than 100 copper paired lines to the local exchange.
While this was acceptable for making telephone calls, the advent of broadband meant that up to a third of houses in an urban area would be incapable of receiving DSL whilst next door neighbours could. The practice of line splitting was prohibited in 2001. However, it has been alleged that already existing split lines in Ireland’s PSTN network have not been replaced or upgraded. As a result, both Esat BT and Ireland Offline claim that as many as 50pc of phone lines in Ireland are incapable of receiving DSL due to line splitting, distance from the nearest exchange and other factors such as equipment such as fax machines affecting test signals.
A spokesman for the Communications Department said: “The minister has made numerous public comments in the past about the lack of investment by Eircom in broadband and broadband enabling exchanges. The minister has said in the past that instead of taking money out of the company in the form of dividend it should have been re-invested in infrastructure.”
However, the spokesman also argued that the situation was not as bleak as it appeared. “The present Government has been investing over €230m in broadband communications infrastructure, through the metropolitan area network programmes, new group broadband schemes and community broadband exchanges (co-location).
“The market is deregulated and there are a wide range of options for consumers seeking broadband in the marketplace. There has been a dramatic cut in the price of broadband and Ireland is rapidly climbing the broadband ladder. We currently enjoy one of the lowest broadband entry pricing structures in the world,” the spokesman added.
By John Kennedy
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