Minister Eamon Ryan’s Next Gen Broadband Forum – Constructive, depressive and with the odd spacer

To summarise the event in one sentence: We all want fibre-like broadband and we want it everywhere but we’re fucked infrastructure wise.

And now follows a longer summary:
I previously wrote about how Eamon Ryan put a half-day open forum together on Next Generation Broadband. He even went on to announce it. I got to go along, along with Damien Callan from and a few other folks including general consumers and people from The structure was a room with 14 tables and around each table were civil servants, telco people, people from the EU, consumers/campaigners and other interested parties. In other words, a very good mix, though it all depended on who was at your table. Some fantastic minds happened to be at mine.

Coober Pedy
Photo owned by jnpk1979 (cc)

It was almost table-quiz in structure as we were given table questions to consider and give answers to over a number of rounds. Each table had someone that would then communicate what the table had decided. Some were good and feedback from people after told me some had their agenda already set and gave that.

Mostly the topics dealt with state assets, future trends, the best way to get everyone broadband, the digital divide etc. Some of the questions were stupid though such as asking to decide on a max and minimum speed by 2010, 2015 and further. Really! Jesus. Targets once set have most energy around them dedicated to rigging them as I happily pointed out to the Dept of Comms rep at the table. (big fan of you by the way dude, love your memos that I got under FOI.) The rep’s Department have lied for years about broadband levels and every Minister with them. Whatever someone wants was my answer and our aim should not be a speed because every prediction has been beyong wrong, it should be whatever the person or business wants. 100Mb, no problem, a gig, no problem. I argued strongly for that.

Then came a typically backwards-thinking question and one that gets my brainblood boiling: What is the killer app for broadband? Dedicating time to figuring out a “killer app” for a medium is wasteful and isn’t addressing the issue. What’s the killer app for water? What’s the killer app for electricity? See, they’re utilities, they don’t need killer apps. (David Isenberg points to a Jupiter survey that shows people will stop going to the movies and paying for movie channels well before giving up their Net) “The killer app” for broadband (were it to exist) is broadband. A free and open pipe and have the world build things in, on and around it.

Photo owned by iwona_kellie (cc)

After the tablequizims, there were breakout sessions to discuss various things and then we all came back together to discuss the results of them. And then something odd happened, despite the whole general feeling of the day about needing of more speeds and better connections the Assistant Secretary General of the Department of Communications stood up and summarised the day and the state of Ireland and said that from the day we see people don’t need or use fast broadband connections and sure all they do is send emails anyway. Planet Nothere called and want their spacer back. Maybe he’s a nice guy, I hear he is but stating that nobody uses their 20mb connection for anything more than email is devoid of reality or just a plain fucking lie and it’s obvious that the Department can do that very well.

So was it just a talking shop? some of the people think so. I don’t. It made the Civil Service do something new: Meet reality and the people that exist there. Not the telco people either but real Joe and Joanna Soaps. Happily ignoring people from an Ivory Tower and only interacting via highly controlled paper consultations didn’t happen. Real people spoke and shared.

What needed to happen though was that everyone there agreed on a todo list for the Department and the Department had to go off and carry some of them out and report back in 3 months. Reality-based todos that can be done, so at least it’s better than nothing at all. Action points were needed. Let’s hope if there is a next time it will have them.

23 Responses to “Minister Eamon Ryan’s Next Gen Broadband Forum – Constructive, depressive and with the odd spacer”

  1. Helen Brown says:

    Was interested to hear what happened at this one.. great summary, thanks.

  2. Keith says:

    Electricity and water don’t need a ‘killer app’ now, but they did when they were first rolled out. Electricity’s was high quality domestic lighting at night. Piped water’s was not having to walk to a well and pump water.

    If we’re to convince people that what I call “fibre-like to the kerb” (i.e. speeds around 1Gbps to street level) is worth spending €2bn on, we’re going to have to give them a killer app. Maybe it’s TV on demand. Maybe it’s something interactive. But trying to sell broadband for the sake of broadband to the general public isn’t going to be easy.

  3. Eoin says:

    Heh heh, spacer.

  4. I don’t normally comment but – WHAT? Next Generation?

    There IS a killer app for broadband, it’s called the internet.

    Try dialup sometime for a laugh if you don’t believe me…

    It’s pretty much impossible to use common applications of the internet which are taken for granted by those who are connected like email (with attachments) browsing ( to rich media sites like youtube) and ip telephony (don’t make me laugh!) if you are condemned to 2nd class online citizenship through the governments lack of action on the rollout of broadband infrastructure to rural areas…

    NEXT generation? What about just getting us up to the kind of speeds we should have had years ago?

    (Rant over)

  5. Damien says:

    @keith Water delivery mechanisms are not apps, they’re delivery mechanisms, just like mobile broadband is not a broadband killer app, it’s broadband. Piped water wasn’t invented to get people to use more of the water. Lighting wasn’t invented to get people to sign up for electricity either, it was already there.

    Inventing and searching for a killer app signals that not one of the people who proposed such a foolish idea actually use the Internet and have broadband. In the past two years peer to peer traffic has been overtaken rapidly by streaming video. Nobody invented YouTube to get people to use their connections more, they didn’t need to. Broadband is a vacuum which will always be filled and the lack of restrictions helps do that. I’ve not seen people stop upgrading their PCs because they have enough memory or processing power. I’m sure those on 486s that have old dos applications are happy with what they have if they have only a few single purposes.

    To quote William Gibson “the street finds its own uses for things”

    Selling broadband isn’t easy? You might have heard of IrelandOffline and the 10s of 1000s of people who wanted broadband and couldn’t get it or the 200k or whatever it is people who have signed up to mobile broadband in less than two years. For the numbers who can get broadband and the numbers who have signed up, we’re actually ahead of the curve in Europe for broadband adoption, just as we are for XBox usage, mobile usage, texting usage, Playstation usage and games sales. It’s harder to sell beer than it is to sell broadband. And the demand is still there, the demand the Government, eircom and their ComReg whores denied existed.

  6. Gavin says:

    I was tempted to apply for an invitation, then I evaluated the effort needed to travel up from South Kerry (another infrastructure issue!) vs attending a meeting, which at best would be listening to/involved in a series of realist proposals/debates, with the civil circus clowns giving everyone the “magic mirror” answer (“We will look into that”) and at worst just a large toss-fest.

    If it was a serious conference, why in Dublin? It doesn’t have broadband issues (yet). Why didn’t they have it where the only Internet available was dial-up or even better 3G!! I would love to see Voda/O2/3 explain why Mr Ryan’s email doesn’t send, or why it take 10 minutes for to open.

  7. Damien says:

    Jesus Christ, the location is the lynchpin now?

  8. Rahood says:

    @Mulley. You messed up. Profit……. Der’ be Profit on the NET.I’m not sure just what you said or how about you yourself went about saying it but to say it in plain English is a big No NO.

    I pay for a 24Mb connection to my home. I get at best a 12Mb connection. I am willing to pay foy just what I upload and download.

    Stop with the adverts talking about 24/7 ‘always on Broadband’ (read the small print)

    [b]Unlimited[/b] Broadband… arse.

    Ireland is a separate country. We only have a couple of Internet pipes facing back on the net’s backbone..

    You* twits talk about the ‘Knowledge Economy’ and that is what will drive Ireland forward today…….

  9. Brian Honan says:

    Great summary Damien.

    Was there any discussion about how we ensure the security of all the future Irish internet space? As you know the establishment of a national Computer Emergency Response Team has been something I have been championing for a long time now.

  10. Ronan Lupton says:

    Damien, I was at your table! Fantastic minds? Eh? Who? :0)

  11. Mike says:

    Fiber Broadband=efective communication in the modern era
    No fiber broadband=were fu**ed !

    We dont need to look for a reason to justify rolling out broadband.Get on with it! Think about the consequunces if we dont-countries who have invested in broadband infrastructure will have a significant compeditive advantage while Ireland will be left stuck in the mud looking for a “killer app”
    There’s a lot of talk about the need to mentain the spend on transport infrsatructure in order to mentain our competitivness-what about broadband infrastructure?

    Web 2.0 is here. Where’s the broadband

  12. Aidan says:

    the government just needs a change in attitude, they can do it in Sweden and Norway.. why cant we?

  13. Tea is the killer app for water. Hmm…. tea

  14. jbkenn says:

    Mission accomplished, being “seen to be doing something”
    Report back in 3 months?, budget next week, severe pain for all, by the time they report back, if it has’nt slipped their mind, most people will be more concerned about how they will keep an ar$e in their trousers, than NGN.

    The killer app for water… coffee… a mug of Java… sitting down to your computer, with NGN broadband

  15. tipster says:

    I think that’s what Assistant Secretaries are for. Six or seven years ago I represented an NGO at a similar style of exercise the Department of Education organised on its role in the National Anti-Povery Strategy. The common theme coming out of the contributions was that expenditure on educational disavantage — from pre-school right through to university — needed to be hugely increased. At the closing plenary, the Dept’s A.S. — who had reently moved in from the Department of Defence — “summed up” the content of the discussion by saying that clearly the biggest message coming through from the NGOs was that the Department needed to get “more bang for its buck”. The message of “more buck” was ignored. (Not just in the summary but in the decisions the Department took afterwards in everything except disability, where it was being ground down by legal cases, and for students who did not have fluent English, where it was being ground down by school principals constantly harassing them for more spondulicks.)

  16. Keith says:

    I wasn’t saying you *invent* a killer app. You just have to find it. “The Internet” obviously hasn’t been it yet, because people aren’t banging down their TDs’ doors demanding to know why there’s no 1Gbps internet connection available to their house.
    It’s a sales point to convince the country that fibre-ing up the country is more important than building a major motorway. It’ll cost the same (Mark Kellett recently estimated it at €2bn).

  17. erugalatha says:

    Didn’t you know that by “Next Generation” the government actually mean that the next generation of our kin-folk might have some form of interwebs connection … maybe.

    That’s after the government has pulled a few marketing strokes and convinced us that 99.9% of us already have perfuctly good broadband – or are they confusing dial-up with broadband.

    Do they even know their arse from their elbow?

  18. “Balance in everything” as my old ma used to say; interesting to see disagreement over common ground! Killer App, not the point, look back 20 years and it is obvious that initally a lot of technology is almost for it’s own sake (or some narrow purpose – internet itself even) but provides space in which innovation can thrive. The future is not ours, we borrow it from our children, so lets look at what they are doing; even if we don’t like/agree that it is of value – not our call. Look at public transport – no one uses busses on Sundays so cut back the service! Hard to use them if the service is cut back and a culture does not develope. Get Broadbnd out there and they will come; even my Luddite (sorry mum) mother uses Internet……

    Damien, really good report on the event, and spot on take on Officialdom. I have a bit of experience and know that how they operate must be understood and worked with if progress is to be made. Ministers find this out very quickly on taking office. Anyone remember the scene in West Wing where Toby attempts to address the audience of Anti Globalisation protestors? Too mant cooks spoil the…

  19. barry says:

    Should I be surprised? It was the usual waffle, great summary Damien. Any organisation that thinks killer apps run developments need to be certified. Were google/facebook/twitter….. even a twinkle in someones eye when the Net started?

    The role of the Dept. is to implement a strategy for BB and other important infrastructure. The fact they even needed to hold this waste of a day illustrates neatly how far they are from even understanding what a strategy is….

  20. […] the Senate, he’s said it in interviews, he told me this story on the phone, he told it at his broadband forum a while […]

  21. Liam says:


    I vented/ranted to the Irish Times letters page and it was published this morning if anyone wants to read it. There are killer apps for business users.
    The key apps I would like to be able to run are video-conferencing with clients, high-performance remote storage and reliable/usable VPN connections where accessing network shares etc. happens instantaneously as if you were on a LAN.
    What really annoys me is when government / eircom talk about broadband penetration as if that’s all that matters. Broadband without quality of service and a service level agreement is no good for business. Sure, you can do email and basic browsing but that’s all. The exchange backhaul in the village where I live is so congested that as soon as the kids are home at three in the afternoon you’re snookered…. and who is going to pay 100K+ to properly upgrade it for the sake of maybe 250 homes? Public money is needed or it will never happen…

  22. barry says:

    Good one Liam, but I doubt if you’ll have any effect, unfortunately. The present situation is so bad there is no money to buy it, even at the firesale price it might reach. That is assuming our present management would even consider it, they are the same crowd who sold it. Just because there is a green minister is no guarantee, and anyway Ryan is a privatisation fan.

    The only interventionist option is to actually tender out some government work. For example, the HSE could re-arrange the breast scan thing to be a service where scans were done remotely and the results sent to a central unit who could actually look properly at them…. There are dozens of applications which could be processed remotely – thus providing a justification for investment in the network.

    All of this is before one considers a real opening of the network, the elimination of ConReg for a start….

    Bye, Barry

  23. […] too.’s release of 10 years of data was a brlliant idea. And stop thinking about the killer app, the street finds its own uses for this data and the world will make the apps. The Government can […]