Ahern to get tough over poor broadband rollout

23 Oct 2003

Communications Minister Dermot Ahern TD has threatened to intervene on regulatory, infrastructural and legislative fronts to ensure that broadband is delivered to the rest of the country.

The Minister told this morning’s Telecoms and Internet Federation (TIF) conference that he is ready to get tough on an issue that is spiralling out of control. He said that at least 80 towns were losing out because the telecommunications market was not meeting the challenge of providing the necessary infrastructure.

He said: “It is simply unsustainable that this infrastructural deficit is not being met. I want that deficit addressed in a pro-competition, pro-choice and low-cost fashion.

“If it isn’t addressed quickly by the market, I will intervene on the regulatory, infrastructural and legislative fronts to advance change. I certainly will not stand idly by while towns like Newbridge, Maynooth, Ardee, Mitchelstown, Roscrea and Cobh do not even have a basic DSL broadband service. Plainly, Ireland cannot preside over a culture of regional broadband indifference.”

He added: “The case for broadband is as strong now as the case for providing digital exchanges 20 years ago, and the rewards are potentially more promising.”

The Minister told the TIF conference that if the country remained content with low volumes and high prices the economy would fail.

Despite major gains including the fact that 39pc of Irish adults are now online and that 85pc of SMEs are connected to the internet, Ahern said that the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources regularly receives complaints by business people and members of the public that they could not get broadband. This is against the remarkable backdrop of the fact that in the period of April to June this year internet minutes exceeded those of local and national telephone calls combined. The market is clearly there to be exploited.

“These are your potential customers. And they are not just people from deepest rural Ireland. We have been contacted by people living not 2 kilometres from this conference who cannot get DSL. Here, in the middle of a modern prosperous European capital city. This is plainly untenable,” Ahern told the assembly of telecommunications professionals.

By John Kennedy