Oireachtas committee to address broadband failure


15 Mar 2004

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A major report on broadband rollout from the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources due out next week is likely to address the failure of broadband in Ireland. The report provides guidelines as to how Ireland could achieve putting 5Mb per second broadband in every home by 2006, increased to 10Mb per second by 2008.

The report, which will be published on 25 March, will address the failure of the market to be capable of putting 5Mb per second broadband in every home by 2005, as originally envisaged, and will draw on recommendations from all sides of the argument, including industry, education, health and environment, as to how this failure could be corrected by 2006.

Despite claims of victory following the introduction of policy directives over the past year by Communications Minister Dermot Ahern TD with the result that more than 100,000 people use broadband and flat rate internet access services, the reality is that we are still a long shout away from 5Mb to every home by 2005. “DSL is simply not broadband. At this rate we won’t get 5Mb per second by 2056”, a source close to the committee explained.

The Joint Committee on Communications, which is chaired by Cork Fianna Fail TD Noel O’Flynn, is a cross-party committee that includes TDs and senators from most of the key political parties, including Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour, the Green Party and Sinn Fein. The 200-page report is the result of six Oireachtas Committee meetings held last year that saw presentations from 47 community, industry and State groups including the Atlantic Technology Corridor, the Southern Health Board, ComReg, Microsoft, HP, IBEC and Cisco, to name but a few.

A source close to the broadband process told siliconrepublic.com: “This report could well be the most defining report that will be written about Ireland in the 21st century.”

For example, included in the report will be a recommendation that the Department of the Environment and local councils in future must only approve planning permission on construction developments that include broadband connectivity in the same way as electricity and water are judged. “In other words, from here on in broadband will be regarded as a utility,” the source said.

The secretary general of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Brendan Tuohy also made a presentation to the committee and acknowledge the failure of market forces to deliver true broadband. In his presentation he said: “What we have experienced in recent years is a market failure or limitations of the market. When we liberalised the markets we believed the private sector would drive investment and provide the infrastructure upfront. It has not happened because there has been a shortage of capital in the sector.”

Highlighting how Sweden is investing €5bn in rolling out broadband, Tuohy estimated that Ireland would need to invest €1.95bn to achieve 95pc total broadband coverage of the country.

By John Kennedy