On what appears to be a weekly basis, a report is released showing how poorly Ireland is doing in the roll out of broadband. Soon after, ComReg – the Irish telecoms regulator and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources deny that the situation is as bad the report says, tell us we’re improving greatly and come up with excuses for our poor placing.
After four years of these reports and surveys both ComReg and the Department of Communications are acting like the parents of a badly performing school child and are in complete denial as to the extent of the delinquency of little Tommy Telecoms.
Every year the European Union releases a report card on telecommunications performance of the EU25 countries. Every quarter ComReg release a similar report from an Irish perspective. In the EU report it shows Ireland has the highest line rental in the EU, it shows Ireland has the highest mobile bills, it shows that Ireland has the 2nd highest household landline bills and it shows Ireland doing very poorly in broadband adoption.
In the ComReg quarterly report line rental comparisons are completely removed, household landline bill comparisons are not included but replaced with a report on national call charges for which Ireland is actually cheaper than many European countries. For mobile prices Switzerland is added into the comparison charts. Switzerland is a non-EU country but just happens to be about the only country on the European continent with higher mobile prices. For broadband statistics ComReg declares that we are growing more than many EU countries.
The other parent, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources is equally in denial. When regularly confronted with Ireland being near the bottom of every broadband league table the Minister and the Department of Communications have blamed the bursting of the telecoms bubble, the fact that Ireland was a â€œlate starterâ€?, the fact that there was no cable competition, the lack of computers in the country and even population density for not being near the EU average. All of these excuses can be quickly nullified on closer inspection.
What has been done though to rectify the situation? Simple professional advice from the Information Society Commission, Forfas and the Oireachtas Committee on broadband has been given and the Department has so far failed to act on any of the recommendations that were provided.
A good first step to better parenting is to be honest with the child and with yourself. Admit to the severity of the problems and then take the professional advice given and move forward from there. Not facing the truth is only going to prolong the problem and might lead to a stage where it can no longer be fixed. The broadband problems in Ireland have yet to be critically assessed by the Department.
The harsh reality is that Ireland is one of the poorest performing developed nations for broadband adoption. Last week the OECD showed that 22 countries were doing better for broadband than Ireland and 18 of them had faster broadband growth rates resulting in us falling even further behind the majority of the table. ComReg and the Department of Communications need to stop living in their shared delusion and start living in the harsh reality that consumers and businesses are facing when it comes to getting broadband. The broadband market in Ireland needs better parenting and once this happens everyone can work together and make Ireland top of its class.
The above was a piece the Examiner asked me to write for them which was meant to be in their “Broadbanned” special report this week. Obviously it got bumped. Shame. I’ll go add in relevant links later.