National Broadband Plan

National broadband plan will fail those in our country areas

High-speed internet access is more important than ever but getting fibre to all homes is not the way forward in rural Ireland.

The National Broadband Plan, the Government’s initiative to provide high-speed fibre internet connections to every home in the country, has been hit with setbacks, budget cuts and delays almost since its inception.

The latest Switcher.ie survey brought in to focus the huge variance of broadband speeds across Ireland and the real problems facing rural businesses and communities without high-speed internet access.

The National Broadband Plan, the Government’s initiative to provide high-speed fibre internet connections to every home in the country, has been hit with setbacks, budget cuts and delays almost since its inception. This problem seems destined to continue with no end in sight. What was supposed to be delivered in 2015 is now not even planned to start until mid-2018 and is unlikely to fully materialise until 2023 at the earliest. This will leave thousands of rural households and businesses with a prohibitively slow internet connection.

While it’s a difficult question to confront, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask it: is the National Broadband Plan in its present form actually feasible? Considering our geography and existing infrastructure, is it financially and logistically possible to deliver high-speed fibre-optic internet to every home in Ireland?

While more and more of us are gravitating towards major towns and cities, Ireland is still mostly rural. Laying fibre-optic cable isn’t easy, or cheap. Roads must be closed and footpaths dug up. These difficulties are multiplied significantly in the country, where kilometres of hi-tech cable need to be passed through private farmland, secondary roads and down boreens to reach solitary houses and isolated townlands.

There are still too many unanswered questions. If the Government puts down fibre- optic cable along a main road, will it be up to the household or the business to pay to have it connected the extra distance to their front door? This would cost thousands. Will this cost be subsidised or will the consumer have to pony up the money upfront? And how much of a monthly charge consumers will have to pay? We simply do not know.

What we do know is that similar commercial and government initiatives to get fibre to the home in other countries have proved too costly and expensive and are being replaced with more advanced, future-proofed wireless technologies.

The Australian government launched its own broadband initiative a number of years ago, and these very problems were encountered; it was not cost-effective or practical to deliver fibre-optic cable to remote areas. They turned to fixed wireless as a solution.

And it’s not only cost-conscious governments reassessing their plans: Google, arguably the world’s foremost tech company, with virtually unlimited funds, has made drastic revisions to its own broadband project in the United States, which was initially focused on delivering ultra-high-speed fibre-optic connections.

When consumers proved unwilling to pay the price of connecting their homes to a fibre-optic network and paying for a service they didn’t need, Google realised the impracticality and commercial reality and announced that a switch from fibre-to-the-home to fixed wireless.

Fixed wireless bypasses the difficulties of laying down kilometres of cable by transmitting a signal through the air which is then picked up by a receiver.

The National Broadband Plan is promising internet speeds of up to one gigabit per second (or a thousand megabits). Does the average household need that kind of speed? As the Switcher.ie survey shows, the average and perfectly sufficient broadband speed in Dublin is 45 megabits. Today, advanced fixed wireless can provide a connection speed of up to 200 megabits and is more than capable of servicing the average household and business. Indeed, this is way beyond what the average household uses, and even as internet consumption increases in the years ahead (and wireless speeds along with it), we’re still a very long way from requiring a full gigabit.

But even fixed wireless internet is under threat. An upcoming auction of the wireless “spectrum” – the available bandwidth that internet companies can use to provide advanced wireless services – could see mobile operators and larger telecoms companies with a vested interest in being subsidised to rollout fibre, snap up large sections of it, squeezing out wireless suppliers essential to the provision of rural broadband.

If this happens, compounded by further delays to the National Broadband Plan, accessing high-speed internet could become even more difficult for thousands of homes and businesses, and those who rely on fixed wireless internet already may actually lose their existing connections. As we stand, thousands of homes and businesses dependent on existing fixed wireless connections are about to be put into limbo by the communications minister.

Over the past two years, we have advised the Government, the Communications Regulator and Minister for Communications Denis Naughten of the global shift to fixed wireless as a solution to deliver high-speed broadband to rural areas urging them, in the national interest, to safeguard part of the spectrum for fixed wireless, thereby assuring internet access for thousands of people into the future. To date, this has been ignored.

There are undeniable problems with Ireland’s internet infrastructure and these need to be addressed as a matter of urgency; but that doesn’t mean that the National Broadband Plan is the all-curing panacea. Indeed, assuming the most optimistic rollout of fibre, our own estimates suggest that there will still be roughly 200,000 homes and businesses that will need a fixed-wireless solution. If the spectrum for fixed wireless is no longer available, in addition to hindering the provision of real, workable solutions in a much shorter time frame, these homes and businesses could be the collateral damage of the Government’s blinkered view of broadband provision.

Tech multinationals and other national governments are reconsidering fibre fundamentalism, and we should be doing the same. A refusal to rationally examine the National Broadband Plan and explore more economic alternatives will see us locked into a costly project for decades to come, especially if wireless providers are forced out of the market. Creating a new financial black hole, like Irish Water, is not desirable for either the public or the Government. By 2023, it’ll be too late to say we got it wrong.

Catch the full article here in the Irish Independent
– Copyright Brian O’Donohoe

cork-indo

Areas of Cork among slowest for broadband

New data this week revealed the Cork has some of the worst areas in the country for broadband speeds.

Of the20 slowest areas in the country, four are in Cork, with Dromahane is county Cork among the five worst in the country.

The speed test data collected by Switcher.ie, the independent price comparison website and switching service, found that parts of the country experience broadband speeds up to 36 times slower than others.

The data also suggests that as few as a quarter of households could be receiving speeds of 30Mbps or more, the minimum target set out in the National Broadband Plan.

The data, based on almost 27,000 consumer speed tests run by broadband users between 1 August 2015 and 31 July 2016, shows that Legan in Longford is officials the slowest area, with average speeds that are 36 times slower than Drimnagh in Dublin 12 – the fastest area- and almost 12 times slower than the national average.

In terms of county-by-county results, Dublin has the highest average speed, followed by Waterford, Kildare, Meath and Westmeath. The county with the slowest average speed is Longford, with Leitrim, Roscommon, Monaghan and Mayo making up the bottom five.

The National Broadband Plan sets out that, at a minimum, broadband with speeds of up to 30Mbps should be available to all. The data shows that, of all tests collected throughout the period, only 25 per cent of tests had speeds of 30Mbps or more.

Eoin Clarke, Managing Director of Switcher.ie, said: “The results from the speed test data highlight the digital divide in Ireland. We’re seeing lightning speeds in certain areas, largely where there has already been investment made in fibre to the home networks. However, in many areas we are still a long way off these kinds of speeds.

“In practical terms, it would have taken someone living in Legan in Longford over three and-a-half hours to download a two hour HD movie, while people in Drimnagh in Dublin 12 can do this in just under six minutes.

“This is a stark difference that could have a real impact on quality of life for people in areas with sluggish speeds. And it can have an impact on house prices, education and local businesses, too.

“Obviously, investment from commercial providers and rollout of the National Broadband Plan is needed in order to bring every premises onto a level playing field.”

The highest speed out of all the tests was 989.15Mbps, which was recorded in Ballon in Carlow.

Aside from the type of connection you have and where you live, there are a number of other factors that can affect the speeds you can achieve. For example, distance from the exchange, where the router is placed within your home and even the time of day you use the internet. Whether or not you’re connected directly to the router or using WiFi will also have an impact, as will the device you’re using.

Catch the full article in the Cork Independant

Article by Brian Hayes Curtin

clare

Rural Clare’s future jeopardised by ‘dire broadband’

HUGE tracts of Clare are on the wrong side of the so-called ‘digital divide’ according to local politicians and business people, with concerns this is hampering economic development and will continue to do so for years to come.

Research published this week by switcher.ie shows that there is an average download speed in Clare of 17.4 Megabits per second (Mbps). This is the 12th quickest of the 26 counties and while this is dramatically quicker than last-placed Longford (just 7.25Mbps), it is also way behind first-placed Dublin (44.85Mbps) and also some distance behind Waterford (27.9Mbps) and Kildare (27.36Mbps).

The research also shows that Shannon, home to companies such as IT giant Intel, has an average download speed of 51.64 Mbps, the eighth quickest city or town in Ireland.

While the figure in Shannon is almost three times quicker than the average for the county, there is no doubt that many rural areas are experiencing much slower speeds.

Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley said the relatively healthy average figure for Clare masks a lot of problems.

“We have good broadband in parts of Ennis and other urban areas. That’s fine and it meets the business needs there. But averages hide the true facts. There are small businesses all over Clare, whether they be shops or pubs or farms, that need access to the internet. There are many families whose children need access to the internet for projects for school, for college work and they find it impossible to get adequate download speeds.”

It seems like broadband has been an issue for rural Ireland for an eternity, but Deputy Dooley warned that things are still moving too slowly.

“The sad thing about it is there is no end in sight. Notwithstanding that the Government have had a national broadband strategy/plan underway since 2012, we still don’t have a tender document circulated to appoint a company or group of companies to deliver it. There is going to be a lead-in time to roll this broadband out and there is now talk that it could take four to five years. All the while, technology is changing and content requires faster download speeds. We are way behind the European index on this.”

He contrasted the roll-out of broadband with the rural electrification scheme in the 20th Century. “When you look at the electrification of Ireland, nobody said that if you lived out on the top of a hill in Inagh or in Ogonnelloe or Broadford or Cooraclare, you should get a lesser voltage than people in places like Ennis or Kilrush or Shannon. What we’re saying at the moment is that it is ok for Ennis to have 220 volts in electrical terms and it is ok for people in rural areas to have 10 volts.”

Read the full story here : http://bit.ly/2fbAS8o

By Owen Ryan

slow

Kerry Slowest in Munster for Average Broadband Speed

Economic development in rural Kerry remains hobbled by shockingly poor broadband speeds which are the slowest in the entire province, a new survey of average internet connection speeds in Ireland has shown.

The survey conducted among 27,000 internet users nationally by website Switcher.ie shows that people living on rural Kerry are forced to contend with some of the slowest broadband download speeds in the entire country when trying to conduct business or use the internet for leisure.

Kerry is ranked the tenth slowest county in the Republic. The findings of the survey echo a study conducted by The Kerryman in June which found that most of the townlands in Kerry – outside of the main urban centres of Tralee, Killarney, Listowel and Dingle – are struggling on broadband that is far slower than the minimum target speed per household under the Government’s National Broadband Plan; the realisation of which has now been delayed until 2022 at the earliest, following an initial deadline of 2020.

Only Monaghan and Wexford were faring worse than Kerry in our July survey of internet speed, which found an average download speed of 8.6 megabits per second (Mbs) across the county.

Switcher.ie’s survey published this week found Kerry’s average broadband speed, taking the large urban centres into consideration, is at 14.02Mbs.

One politician here blasted the provision:

“It’s simply not acceptable that homeowners and business owners in Kerry are being forced to work with speeds averaging 14Mbps,” Fianna Fáil Kerry Deputy John Brassil told the Kerryman on Tuesday.

“Let’s be quite clear – businesses in Kerry are competing, not only with their neighbours in Limerick, but with companies in Dublin, where the average speed was recorded at 45mbps.”

“The speeds being made available to communities in Kerry are 53% less than the commitments made by the current Government that everywhere in the country will be able to access broadband at 30mbps at a minimum,” Deputy Brassil added.

longford

Longford broadband ‘not spot’

News that Legan, Co Longford has the slowest broadband speed  in the country has not come as a surprise to locals.

In new data, released by comparison site Switcher, it was revealed that Longford’s broadband is the slowest in the country, with an average speed of 7.25Mbps. The slowest broadband area was Legan, with an average download speed of 1.98Mbps, compared to the 72.15Mbps recorded by the fastest area in the country; Drimnagh, Dublin 12.

It was further revealed that Legan’s broadband speed is almost 12 times slower than the national average.

“Broadband has been an issue in south Longford for years,” revealed Legan native, Cllr Paul Ross.

“We are not surprised to see what has come out in the media today as it has been a problem for years.”

Cllr Ross said such was the slow nature of the broadband speed, a local grocery store was unable to facilitate customers in their attempts to pay for their bin service charges.

“Mulleady’s use a top up system but the local shop in Legan can’t provide that because the laser company Mulleady’s work with use a fixed line broadband connection and we (Legan) haven’t got that.”

Cllr Ross said the absence of such a service was not only hindering local businesses in their efforts to make ends meet, but was also forcing local homeowners to do their shopping elsewhere. The Fine Gael councillor said of more immediate concern was the fact some some former parishioners had been forced to sell their homes in a bid to access higher broadband speeds.

“Every house in this day and age needs broadband especially when children are now using iPads at school and more people are using Facebook, emails and downloading various types of data.

“And I know of two families who had been commuting to Dublin and looked to work one day a week at home but who sold their house because they can’t do their work from home,” he said.

For more on this, see www.longfordleader.ie

rural-boradband

Slow Cork Broadband

DROMAHANE in north Cork was ranked as one of the five worst locations in the country for broadband speed.

The village has a broadband speed of 5.28Mbs, much slower than the Cork average of 17.08Mbs. Dublin has by far the fastest broadband speed, averaging 44.85mbs. One-in-three people say they may have to move to counties in Ireland to get better broadband.

The Vodafone poll also revealed that 70% of small Irish firms have rated their broadband infrastructure as poor.

A separate study from website Switcher.ie carried out 26,829 tests and found that a third of customers had speeds of less than 5Mbs per second, leaving them unable to perform even some basic online tasks.

Catch the full article in the Evening Echo.

rural-boradband

Disgrace of rural broadband as one in three struggles just to get email

Shocking broadband surveys suggest there is a crisis in rural areas, with large parts of the country at breaking point due to unusable connections.

A Switcher.ie survey of 27,000 internet users revealed that some areas of Ireland are struggling with speeds insufficient to load email messages or perform basic Google searches.

A separate poll from Vodafone suggests that more than one in three Irish people said they might have to relocate to a nearby town or city for work reasons if connectivity remains poor.

In all, more than one in three of the 26,829 tests logged by Switcher.ie showed download speeds of under five megabits per second (Mbs), which is inadequate to perform most online tasks in a typical household or small business.

The worst area in Ireland is Legan in Longford, which has an average download speed of under 2Mbs, according to the survey. The Longford townland is 36 times slower than parts of Dublin, where download speeds average up to 72Mbs.

It comes after a separate Vodafone survey claimed that seven out of 10 small Irish firms were being held back by poor broadband infrastructure.

Catch the full article here on Independant.ie – http://bit.ly/2fbXgvN

Article by Adrian Weckler

price

Virgin Media Ireland prices will increase from January

Typical bundle will cost €4 more a month from new year as broadband bills rise again.

Virgin Media Ireland is putting its prices up in January for the second time in less than a year for many of its subscribers.

The broadband, cable television and telecoms provider is in the process of informing its customers of the price rises by email or letter.

Broadband prices will rise by €2.50 a month, while the cost of television packages will climb by €1.50 a month. Subscribers with television and broadband bundles will see their bills go up by €4 a month, Virgin Media said.

Virgin broadband bundle subscribers previously saw their bills increase by €5 in March, meaning their bills will have increased by €9 a month when the new prices kick in from January.

Catch the full article here in the Irish Times.
– Story by Laura Slattery

hub

New digital hub to be developed in Cavan Town

Plans are advancing to develop a ‘Digital Hub’ in Cavan Town with a view to nurturing tech-based start-ups, providing supports for existing businesses in the county and ultimately creating jobs as establishing Cavan as a leading location in this field.

The Anglo-Celt understands that a deal to secure a location for the digital hub is nearing conclusion with some sources suggesting that the Cavan Further Education and Training campus (former army barracks) on the Dublin Road is among the contenders.

Aimed at promoting job creation and innovation, the proposed hub is a major factor in the county’s ‘Digital Strategy’, of which Cavan County Council and Cavan and Monaghan Education and Training Board are key stakeholders.

This newspaper understands that substantive groundwork has already been done, with entrepreneurs and digital ambassadors with connections to the region, all sounded out for their input.

From ‘Get Connected’ networking events earlier this year, several companies, including one with links to California, are understood to have expressed keen interest in setting up in the county should the hub get up and running.

Boosted by the fact that Cavan was chosen as one of 10 towns to be among Ireland’s first Gigabit towns or ‘fibrehoods’ under SIRO’s 1GB Broadband Network, the aim is to emulate the success of the first rurally-based digital hub the Ludgate in Skibbereen, west Cork, which was officially opened in July of this year. Pioneering in the fast-paced world of new tech start-up, within weeks of the Ludgate opening, it had 20 permanent tenants and more than 100 members who use it on a part-time basis. Up to half of those are employees of large multinationals such as Google, Facebook and Pfizer working in the city.

“Success breeds success,” says Richard Stafford of Apridata Limited, a Cavan-based data analysis and data management solutions. He believes a dedicated base for digital business workers in the county would help spearhead a digital revolution within the county.

Catch the full article here in the Anglo Celt.
– Story by Seamus Enright

web

You can take the Web Summit out of Ireland…

The Web Summit got off to a mixed start in Lisbon tonight when the venue’s wifi cut out on stage just as founder Paddy Cosgrave tried a live demonstration..

“I don’t think it’s working,” said Mr Cosgrave from the stage in front of an estimated 15,000 attendees.

Video By: Alan Weckler

“Let’s not worry about that. We’ll try again later.”

The glitch came just as Cosgrave was introducing the Portugese Prime Minister, Antonio Costa.

A later attempt at performing the onstage demonstration succeeded.

A spokeswoman for the Web Summit later said that the initial demonstration did not fail because of wifi but because of “a glitch in Paddy’s phone”.

Wifi strength has been the bane of the Web Summit’s existence in its seven years since it originally kicked off as a small conference of 400 people in Dublin.

Two years ago, the wifi collapsed in the RDS causing a debate between Web Summit organisers and the venue.

This year’s event was forced to delay its kickoff by 30 minutes after a surge of late entrants. Mr Cosgrave said that 3,000 people didn’t make it into the 15,000-seater Meo arena, where the conference’s main stage is located.

Catch the full article here in the Irish Independent
– Copyright Adrian Weckler