As part of the IrelandOffline submission to the Department of Communications I compiled a list of the most common excuses used by the Govt and eircom/ComReg as to why we are the donkey(donk-E) of Europe when it comes to broadband.
Facts, figures and PR machines spinning overtime.
One of the reasons we believe we are in such a dire situation in Ireland when it comes to broadband is the insistence by so many groups that there is nothing wrong with the broadband market in Ireland. Problems cannot be addressed if they are not given recognition. Forfas have reported how bad we are, they gave solutions. The Information Society Commission issued reports and suggestions as did the Oireachtas report on broadband. Many reports and many valid suggestions have been made but the majority of the recommendations have never been carried out.
Claiming to have one of the highest growth rates in the EU to make it appear we are doing well is disingenuous. If the penetration rate of Ireland is 5% and we have a growth rate of 100% it means we are going to go up to 10%. A country with a penetration rate of 25% and a growth rate of 60% will boost the penetration rate to 40%. Ireland is being lapped and lapped again by every developed country in the world. Patting ourselves on the back for a high growth rate is deceptive and dishonest.
The fungible excuses of no cable competition, starting late, telecoms bubble bursting, population density, pc penetration and lack of demand need to cease. These excuses can easily be shot down as will be shown in the next few paragraphs.
The excuse of not having cable competition as a reason for Ireland being a world joke when it comes to broadband penetration does not hold weight. Cable is not the cause of worldwide broadband penetration increases. Many countries have aspired to high penetration rates without cable. A cable famine is another excuse and deflection of the truth.
Telecoms Bubble Bursting
Additionally the technology and telecoms â€œbubbleâ€? â€œburstingâ€? is used to explain why we were a late starter in the area of broadband. The telecoms market and the bubble bursting were not localized to Ireland. Every country felt it and some even more so than Ireland. Those same countries are way ahead of us now. Why is that?
Population density is another favoured excuse for rollout issues and as a result low broadband adoption in Ireland. Many of the Scandinavian populations are less dense than Ireland and have much better broadband penetration rates. Northern Ireland has 100% availability and a penetration rate than the Republic. Same geography, same population density.
PC Penetration is fast becoming the favoured excuse for lack of broadband penetration. The excuse runs that since we have low PC usage we have low broadband usage. PCs are now primarily network access devices. Why buy an expensive device if you cannot use it for what you want it to do? Consumers are being blamed for lack of broadband penetration because they are not buying PCs. Have consumers ever been blamed for poor mobile network coverage because they are not buying enough handsets? Meteor built out their network and generated almost 100% coverage and as latest figures showed their customer base jumped a large amount.
Irish consumers use Playstations and X-Boxes more than any other nation in the world apart from Japan. We adore technology but we are not stupid. We would not buy something that we could not use. We will not buy a PC if we cannot get high speed Internet to amke use of it.
Staying with the X-box theme – you cannot blame the lack of X-Boxes for lack of games being sold if it transpires that the number of games out there were severely limited and only a certain percentage of the population could access the shops where the games were sold. Yet this backwards excuse is used about PCs and broadband. Build a broadband network that reaches all and PC usage will jump. The corollary is not true.
Lack of Demand
A very hostile and silly excuse for low penetration rates is lack of demand. We do not for one single second believe this to be true. We instead believe it to be convenient for avoiding the hard work of getting Ireland from bottom to near the top of all the broadband league tables.
ISDN usage has increased not decreased. It should be obvious why this is. People want broadband and cannot get it and resort to expensive ISDN. Satellite usage is increasing not decreasing again because people need something like broadband and resort to a inferior and horribly expensive system to get them close to what they need. Why would people pay €1000 install fee and minimum €70 a month for such a service if it wasnâ€™t because they need broadband or fax-broadband services and will pay so much for something that isnâ€™t broadband but is better than dialup.
The IrelandOffline survey showed the majority they surveyed who were on dialup (circa 400 people) wanted broadband but could not get it. The Chamber of Commerce of Ireland recently showed that 30% of businesses who wanted to upgrade to broadband could not do so because of the lack of availability of broadband. Anytime there is a radio piece on broadband the switchboards are bombarded by people who cannot get broadband. There is not a lack of demand, there is a lack of believing there is demand.
Unless the energy put into creatively coming up with excuses for the current situation is channeled into something more constructive, we will be held back from moving forward.