Noel Dempsey is very much like an email auto-reply message you get after emailing someone that’s on holiday. This is Noel’s boilerplate in answer to most DÃ¡il questions on broadband and telecoms:
The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation.
That’s the double layered shield that Noel Dempsey uses when ever he is questioned on the Irish Telecoms market. Firstly “It’s not me, it’s the industry” and then after that it’s “Talk to ComReg, not me”. If pushed further Dempsey does like most of his colleagues, grabs facts given to him by his Dept and holds on very tight to them, repeating them again and again. Remember that bit in Peter Pan where you are asked to clap harder and louder to bring tinkerbell back to life? I think the Ministers do that with their soundbites. If they say it just one more time it might come true.
Some of the facts were dealt with in previous posts on this subject by me. We are told about all the broadband companies out there when in actuality the majority of them are resellers of eircom telecoms or broadband. If pushed just a little more on this then the Minister tells people to go off and set up their own wireless community scheme to get providers to them. All well and good but all through 2006 the Minister has told people to apply for Group Broadband Scheme funding when the scheme was closed for new applicants.
Even if you got your application in earlier in the year, there were numerous delays with getting the cash out of the Government, if you got someone to provide broadband to you. Again it is the same old issue. To get someone into your town or village you need them to have backhaul so what you are seeing is that providers are slowly moving from more urban centres to a little more rural areas. The IrelandOffline Irish broadband map shows that there are not blackspots as such but swathes of the country without broadband. The map needs a little updating but is accurate enough.
Over the years and again in 2006 we have seen shared excuses from eircom, ComReg about being 2nd worst in the EU15 for broadband. Noel Dempsey has at one point or another used all of these 7 deadly and sinful broadband excuses:
- Best growth rates in the EU. Stop saying we’re crap.
- Ireland was a late starter.
- Lack of cable competition meant no stimulus for eircom.
- PC Penetraton.
- Telecoms bubble.
- No demand.
- Large rural population/Population Density.
Over time IrelandOffline have proved all of these wrong when given opportunity to do so. It took a while but many now in the press question the excuses given and show them to be wrong. Instead of sorting this crap out Dempsey instead goes on the offensive and attacks IrelandOffline and others for pointing out these facts. Apparently fact-checking and pointing at international comparisons is being negative. Great gamesmanship there. The reality sucks Minister and the reality distortion field around ComReg and the DCMNR are making things worse not better.
The Minister and his Department will get away with this as long as he they are allowed to. So how does the Minister get put under more pressure about this behaviour? I think the Alternative providers need to get their ass in gear and come out hard in a united way. That means they need to stop sniping with each other and it means ALTO needs to get their house in order too.
It also means the consumers and the voters need to put the pressure on the Minister. My own view on how to do that is that everyone should target their local councillors and TDs and put pressure on them and educate them and their handlers so show what the real situation is. Have it trickle up to the cabinet that way.
I think more and more people should write to their local newspapers and radio stations and ask them to cover their dire broadband situations and drag on local councillors to listen to the problems. I also think a central source to show how crap the situation is would be of great use. Lack of demand? How about a register of demand in every constituency?
Broadband really does not seem to be a concern of the Government but then again there is an almost infinite list of issues that the Government seem to have marked as low-priority. 2006 saw nothing new from the Minister and all we actually got was the much anticipated Telecoms bill was delayed until at least 1007. Will it become law before the election?