Chair of IIA Physical Infrastructure Working Group questions Government plans for national broadband
Keith Bohanna, chair of the Irish Internet Association Physical Infrastructure Working Group, questions the rationale behind the Government’s decision to roll out national broadband on the 3G wireless network, describing it as "divorced from reality". The IIA Physical Infrastructure Working Group aims to influence the development of a global class physical internet infrastructure for Ireland.
Bohanna continued in response to the Government’s announcement on Thursday 22nd January 2008, "Mobile internet dongles consistently deliver speeds which would be better described as an "internet connection" than "broadband". The Epitiro 2008 Irish Broadband study included among its recommendations: For end users that desire the best performance, fixed broadband, at its worst, is superior to any mobile broadband."
This is confirmed by the experience of normal Irish mobile internet users. A search of the popular Irish discussion forum Boards.ie contains a discussion which is 389 pages long and focused on the mostly negative experiences of Three mobile broadband dongle users.
This is not acceptable for businesses relying on the national broadband scheme to deliver information about their products to consumers in a variety of media. Current internet trends are for the consumption and production of large amounts of media in forms other than text – for example images and video. The development of these communications channels forms an integral part of the internet presence of businesses with their eye on international markets and an understanding of the modern consumer.
The Minister also declared that the National Broadband scheme would put Ireland "ahead of the rest of the world". In the May 2008 Ireland was in 23rd place in the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation broadband ranking Bohanna cites this as another example of the Government setting unrealistic targets.
In a briefing given by Forfás to the Physical Infrastructure Working Group’s contains further evidence to support the working group’s concerns about the attainability of the National Broadband scheme. The briefing included the following:
"Comparator European nations in the OECD (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and The Netherlands) have set ambitious targets and implementation plans to enable the services of the future using a mix of government spending, private investment, and public/private partnerships. In terms of broadband performance it is projected that these leading Western European countries will achieve the following minimum broadband services penetrations, by 2012:
- 50-70 percent of subscribers with speeds in the order of 24 Mbit/s widely available;
- an additional 15-20 percent of subscribers with speeds in the order of 38 Mbit/s; and,
- 10-20 percent of subscribers in these countries with access to 100 Mbit/s-1Gbit/s.
By the same year (2012) Three hope to enhance their service to offer a minimum speed of 2.3Mbit/s. And remember that even that minimum speed will fluctuate widely.
It is possible that our current budgetary position will not allow us to achieve 24Mbit/s on a widespread basis. It is possible that for businesses with dial up the Three dongle will give them a better service than the free market will deliver. Bohanna concludes by asking, "Why can’t it be possible to be honest about what this €223 million programme will actually deliver? Internet connectivity for email and web browsing, not a global standard business broadband service."