Slow rollout of broadband will put Irish exporters at a serious disadvantage over trading partners for the next five years, warned the Irish Exporters Association yesterday.
Speaking at its annual lunch association president Michael Counahan recognised the importance of high-speed connectivity to the export business before joining a growing band of lobbyists in a direct criticism of the incumbent telecommunications operator and the part it plays in the rollout of DSL services and unbundling the local loop.
“This network is controlled by Eircom, which has been moving at a snail’s pace. To catch up with our key trading partners over the next three years, we will need more than 700,000 new DSL connections. But at Eircom’s current rollout rate, this is not going to happen,” warned Counahan. He said Ireland would need to move at twice the speed of its competitors just to catch up.
Responding to the remarks was guest speaker Communications Minister Noel Dempsey TD. While he accepted there was work to be done, he argued that Ireland’s level of broadband activity among businesses was as high as anywhere in Europe. On the issue of Eircom he deferred responsibility to the Commission for Communications Regulation, but not without referring to “people who want to use the Constitution and the law to protect their business interests”.
The Irish Exporters Association used the occasion to launch a new publication, Barriers to E-business Development in the Regions, where broadband — or the lack of it — was presented as the single-biggest barrier.
By Ian Campbell