Esat BT reacts to Taoiseach’s broadband cost remarks

21 Nov 2002

Ireland’s second largest telecommunications company, Esat BT, has responded to remarks made by the Taoiseach this week, in which he accused private companies in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector of not investing enough in the rollout of broadband.

Speaking in the Dáil, Bertie Ahern said the Government was spending “an enormous amount of money on broadband.”

He added : “It is unfortunate that so much is being left to the State and it is a pity the ICT companies would not invest more in it.”

But a spokesman for Esat BT told it was contributing substantially to the rollout of broadband and the digital subscription line (DSL) project.

“Esat BT will have invested €45m-€50m this year on top of a similar amount last year,” he said.

“The company has been actively rolling out broadband-based services throughout Ireland in a project part-funded by the EU under the Government’s National Development Plan programme,” he continued.

Last month Esat BT began calling on the Government to reconsider its broadband strategy by moving to a partnership-based approach that would include consumers and the community.

“It [the Government] wants broadband speeds of 5Mbps per second to the home, and substantially higher for business. That’s internet access in my living room roughly 1,000 times faster than today for the vast majority of us. And they want it in three years,” said company chief executive, Bill Murphy.

“Even if it was able to construct a broadband service within such an ambitious timetable there is no guarantee that consumers would use it. In tandem with building the ‘supply infrastructure’, we also need to ensure it is demand led. Ireland could learn from what is happening in the UK at the moment,” he said.

“Everyone in the UK who logs on can see how many registrations are necessary to trigger the provision of the service. The trigger levels that are being set for each are related to the cost of providing service in that area. In every case where the costs are considered too high, the emphasis goes into getting costs down,” Murphy said.

“We can respond to customers’ needs. We can educate people in the benefits and advantages of e-living. We can open up a whole new world and we can deliver a local service that will put Ireland in the top 10pc of the OECD,” he added.

However, Murphy warned that if this was to be achieved, Ireland had to develop a real market: “A competitive high-quality market in which the playing field is level and in which no one player is allowed to cling to a dominant position.

By Suzanne Byrne