eBay Ireland Boss sets up Broadband Lobby Group

In summary:
1. There is a new non-aligned and impartial broadband lobby group in Ireland. It had a working title of the “Broadband Crisis Advisory Board”
2. John McElligott from eBay had serious reservations about the International Advisory Forum on Broadband since two members had far too many ties with eircom, he later declined an invite to join by Eamon Ryan himself.
3. John McElligott wrote a 17 page report about broadband which cuts through the crap and should really be adopted by the Government. He slams mobile broadband figures being used to excuse our performance.
4. He also seems to have pissed off senior Civil Servants in DCENR and ComReg and they seem to be be conspiring with each other to see who else he was talking to about broadband.

Back in February Simon Coveney TD sent in an FOI request about the International Advisory Forum the Government were putting together. A bland enough request for documentation was asked for and given:

All documentation, including communications, relating to the setting up of an International Advisory Forum on Next Generation Broadband Networks by the Department, including but not restricted to, communications to potential and current members of the Forum. Also including, but not restricted to, any discussion about the terms of reference of the skill set required or any guidelines relating to the calibre of members the Department wished to acquire.

Part 1 of the request (PDF doc) threw up some interesting stuff, though on first glance of the first few pages, it doesn’t look it.

But on page 12 it gets interesting. The head of eBay in Ireland, John McElligott has emailed the DCENR after it appears he was asked to be on this International Advisory Forum. He asks why the DCENR omitted the fact that one of the people on the forum was previously on the board of eircom:

Dated December 18th 2007

Ken, how does Brian Thompson’s bio omit the fact that was was on the board of eircom when it was sold? Omitting such matters of potentially key importance will not increase the credibility of the group.

Now, there are some other bits and pieces too. On page 24-30 is the revelation that another advisory board is going to be launched after pushing from John McElligott:

Dated December 19th 2007

Thanks Ken:
Are you able to tell me about the NAF? Is this the customer body along the lines I proposed?

Reply:Dated December 19th 2007

No, the NAF is separate from the proposed customer body. We have been working on a draft policy paper on NGN/NG Broadband for some time now. We have read many international reports and visited other Ministeries with a view to defining the optimum role for the Government in facilitating the roll out of NGNs. The role of the NAF is to critique the draft policy paper in advance of going out to consultation. The NAF will be made up of EU, US and Asian experts on telecoms and telecom policy and will also include the CEO of Forfas. Minister would like you to come on board an an Irish industry/customer representative. Once the report is published for consultation, we would see the customer body that you have proposed responding with appropriate comments. We could establish the customer body early in the New Year so that it has met and considered customer issues in advance of publication and be somewhat prepared before the paper is published.

and more back and forths:
Dated December 24th at 13.32

In response to your recent emails: We are taking a two stage approach to the polic paper. The National Advisory Forum is being asked to consider and critique the initial draft. The paper will then be published for consultation with all stakeholders, including customers. Minister would welcome your participation in the Forum. An early responose would be appreciated.

If, for whatever reasons, you would prefer not to participate, Minister would welcome your contribution as a customer and we will revert to you at that stage. I wish to emphasise again the confidential nature of this matter.

Dated December 24th at 15.49


Thank you for the note. I will revert to the Minister with a reply in the New Year.

Per my notes, I have concerns regarding the independence of a number of the proposed forum participants. I’m not sure if such credibility risk is in anyone’s interest, least of all the Department.

On page 43 and 44 we get a better picture of this proposed customer group:
Dated December 19th 2007, sent to Minister Eamon Ryan direct:


Per our discussion, please find attached some options for individuals who could be part of a Customer-based broadband group:
A number of online entrepreneurs (e.g. a leader from one of Daft.ie, Myhome.ie, 3V.ie, Directski.com, Arguscarhire.com)
A few of the large online multinationals. These are Google, eBay, Amazon and PayPal
A Bank (e.g. AIB Internet Banking, Banking 365, Halifax.ie etc.)
Online travel company (eBookers.ie, AerLingus.com, RyanAir.com)
Government Departments that genuinely offer online services (e.g. Department of Finance – Motortax.ie)
A University or IT or both
Consumer Representative, though only if they have a fact base from their members e.g. NCA

Other points related to its “constitution”, which we believe are necessary to ensure success include:
* Create a body similar to the Motor Insurance Advisory Board where clear terms of reference and ambitious timetables are adopted for the implementation of the recommendations
*This group would be charged with getting to the bottom of what’s really needed to achieve the rollout of high quality broadband and plot a path to delivering this. It should identify the real issues holding up progress to date and describe plans with how to deal with them. The goal is that we end up with a connectivity infrastructure that is truly competitive. Perhaps is could be called the “Broadband Crisis Advisory Board” or BCAB.
* This group should ve very small, say 10 people. It should be convened by the Minister, with representatives from government, various agencies, education, and the commercial sector. It should be representative of the voice of the consumer, and they should be technology neutral.
* Our technology decision-making will be led by industry for a, many which are already in place. The BCAB should only refer to these where substantive issues relate to competitive issue and (c) above.
* The BCAB should represent the voice of the customer – those of us who use the infrastructure provided by the tech sector. It should also be non-partisan. Therefore, it should not include representatives of eircom, the ALTOs or ComReg, though they will likely present their views to the BACB. Recommendations from the BACB impact these parties.

Roll on to Part 2 of the request.

Nothing much up to page 18 though on that page it states:

John McElligott
eBay Ireland.
Invited on 19 December 2007, much querying on his part.

Page 19 has letter from Minister Eamon Ryan (dated January 21st 2008) asking John McElligott to join the forum. He eventually declines on Feb 8th.

Roll on to part 3 of the FOI PDF
Page 2 to page 24 of this document is great.

First we’ll go to around the page 21 mark:
A letter dated January 6th 2007 sent to Eamon Ryan and Micheál Martin

Thank you for the invitation to participate in the National Advisory Forum, which I received via Kenneth Spratt. I am considering being part of this, and will return to you with a decision in due course.

I would be delighted to participate in the forum if I felt it would make a difference. However, given what I have learned regarding the Forum to date, I am not yet convinced it is the right group. I have three specific concerns regarding its constitution:
1. Does the specific background of certain proposed Forum members inspire the desired level of confidence?
2. Are we missing the perspective of some leading markets which are our neighbours?
3. Can we boost the “customer perspective”?

Some colour on these three points:
1. Some of the proposed Forum participation may result ina reduction in external credibility. For example, one proposed participant has recently compeleted a study on models of separation – which was funded by eircom. Another participant is a former Chairman of eircom. Curiously, these two facts were omitted from the otherwise lengthy resumes I received. I am not in any way indicating that these participants would be in any way prejudiced or partial in their forum participation. However, given out need to establish credibility, I could well forsee a circumstance where the Forum’s credibility could be challenged.

2. Two of our closest neighbours (the UK and Netherlands) are stellar examples of leadership in Connectivity. Yet, curiously, the Forum has minimal participation of direct industry experience from these markets. This may be an oversight as (a) Political leadership is acknowledged to have contributed to UK leadership and (b) Northern Ireland has seen significant success, and it’s “only up the road”.

3. There may be a lack of “customers” in the forum. Per our meeting last month, I recommend adding more than just myself.

To this last point, I am currently convening a group of Irish eCommerce and eBusiness leaders to lobby in 2008 for greater progress in this arena. To date, the response to my outreach has been enthusiastic. Several of my peers believe that Market Failure is costing them dearly, and fear that current, lacklustre NGN plans will mean that Ireland continues to lag in the online sphere – possibly permanently.

Next up, is the email turning down the offer to be on the forum and annoucing the new broadband lobby group has been set up:
Dated February 5th 2008

Per our communication, I will refrain from participation in the NAF.

Two developments from my side are:
1. We eBay have engaged on this issue with a very wide range of stakeholders. Based on these discussions, I am happy to send you my thoughts on what can be done to address our issues. I intend to do this by the end of this week.
2. Today we convened a meeting of serveral business comprising a “Broadband Customer Group”. This group included 12 companies including (i) local eCommerce players and (ii) US Multis with an interestin this. We had a very fruitful and forthright discussion. In due course, we may reach out to you as a group.

On February 8th McElligott sent Minister Ryan and Minister Martin a 17 page document about Broadband in Ireland. It’s a fantastic document, well worth reading.

Part 4 of the FOI PDF contains mostly crap about hotel costs except for one email. An email where the an Assistant Secretary in the DCENR bitches about the head of eBay Ireland and his attitude and mention how they have been talking to ComReg about him too:

Dated January 7th 2008

I don’t understand John McElligott’s reaction to the invitation to sit on the Forum. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to invite him as he’s clearly not comfortable with the idea. Now that he’s setting up a lobby group perhaps his contribution might best be made during the public consultation stage. We have no other lobbyists on the NAF ( we didn’t consider him to be one in the formal sense when we invited him) and to include one will lead to calls from others to be included. I understand he has sent a questionnaire to ComReg, they’re to send me a copy and find out who else received it.

We’ll prepare a response for the Minister.

5 Responses to “eBay Ireland Boss sets up Broadband Lobby Group”

  1. Fergus says:

    Good catch Damien.

    It’s amazing what they can achieve once they put their minds to it. It must have been a tough call, but the Chateau Neuf de Pape was the right choice… going forward… at the end of the day.


  2. jazz biscuit says:

    Interesting stuff; well done.

  3. Darragh says:

    Indeed, revealing to see what’s going on behind all the bluster.

  4. Des says:

    aah Ebay. that paragon of openness. That institution which has killed off its small sellers and boosted the big boys.

    That organisation which (according to the feedback in its community groups) favours its power sellers and acts much like we expect eircom to act.

    I still wonder – we sold off eircom (possibly to fulfill capitalist/pd requirements) and now have to live with the results. if they dont want to extend BB to areas the what can we do ? We handed over the telecoms markets to capitalism and now we have to live with the damn thing…

    (BTW- your spellchecker seems to be US English..)

  5. Justin Mason says:

    Sweet! great stuff this…