Taoiseach called on to clarify roll-out of national broadband plan.

Taoiseach called on to clarify roll-out of national broadband plan.

There are calls for ’straight-talking’ from the Taoiseach over the roll-out of the national broadband plan.

Over half a million people around the country are thought to be waiting for high-speed connections.

Fianna Fail TD Timmy Dooley says it is time for Leo Varadkar to intervene and bring clarity to these people.

“I think it is time for the Taoiseach, as head of government – who is recognised as a straight-talker and certainly identified himself as a straight-talker in the past – to come forward and identify for those 540,000 business and home-owners across the State when they can expect to see the contract signed in the first instance, when the work will begin and when the project can be brought to a conclusion,” said Deputy Dooley.

The need for high-speed broadband is as basic now as the need for a phone-line was in the past, according to Mr Dooley.

“In order to do your daily business, your daily banking, you required access to high-speed broadband,” he said.

“There are many families where the children to do their schoolwork need access to the internet in the evening.

“Students coming home from college at the weekend and want to do their reports, the farming community need it, small businesses need it.

“It is as basic now as electricity was 50-60 years ago or what a phone line was 40 years ago.”

Catch the full article here in the Breaking News
– Copyright Breaking News

Mayo concerns raised over ‘flawed’ national plan

Mayo concerns raised over ‘flawed’ national plan.

OFFICIALS at the highest levels within Mayo County Council have expressed serious concern that the west and northwest will lose out badly if the strategy proposed in the National Planning Framework (Ireland 2040) is approved by the Oireachtas.

Ian Douglas, senior planner with the authority, said: “In my view, this is not a national planning framework. It is really just a framework for five big towns (Dublin, Galway, Cork, Limerick and Waterford).

Mr. Douglas produced a map – not available on the National Planning Framework (NPF) website – which shows Mayo and most western counties in white, outside the main NPF framework.

He rejected suggestions that Mayo will benefit from the sphere of influence of Galway, claiming that the influence of the city will be in a southerly rather than northerly direction. Mr Douglas said the council had supported the case for Sligo to be given some recognition as a ‘sub regional centre’ somewhere between the larger towns and the smaller centres. In its submission to the NPF, the council highlighted the need for greater infrastructure in the region.

There seemed, Mr. Douglas added, to be no recognition in the plan of the importance of Ireland West Airport Knock as a regional driver. Mr. Douglas concluded his remarks by stating he wasn’t convinced there was a genuine consultation process. “It’s going to get political now,” he continued. “It has got political.”

John Condon, director of services, said a critical stage has been reached as regards the NPF. He appealed to councillors with connections in the Oireachtas to lobby to get the plan changed ‘in a way that would benefit us’. Councillors Al McDonnell (FF), Neil Cruise (FG) and Michael Smyth (FF), cathaoirleach, all agreed that the plan, as proposed, should be rejected.

Councillor McDonnell claimed 38% of the Mayo landmass is excluded. “This is not a national plan at all,” he protested. “It is very seriously flawed.”

The councillor also said he was worried about future restrictions on rural planning that would diminish the council’s influence as a local planning authority and destroy members’ ability to make their own discretionary county development plan. Councillor Cruise warned of a two-tier country – a first and third world nation – if the plan, as proposed, is adopted by the Oireachtas.

“We’ll be left with crumbs on the table,” he warned. Councillor Smyth agreed that the plan is ‘lopsided’. He added it is tied in with the national broadband plan which was taking too long and leaving some people in rural areas ‘high and dry’.

Catch the full article here in the Times
– Copyright The Times

Only one in five homes signs up to rural fibre broadband network.

Less than a fifth of rural customers that have been covered by Eir’s new fibre broadband network have been actually connected to the service, leading to concerns about the effectiveness of the scheme.

Eir agreed a deal in April to carve out 300,000 homes from the national broadband plan (NBP) provided it delivered fibre-power internet to those premises by the end of 2018. So far Eir has rolled out their new rural network alongside 100,000 homes in rural areas but only 16,000 customers have signed up to the service.

The €200 million network will run along 23,000 kilometers of Irish roads but homes have to be physically connected to it in order to access the service.

The Department of Communications has been criticised for not…

Catch the full article here in the Times
– Copyright The Times
taxes

Internet tax: Extra levy on Irish TV licence will be a bitter pill

Extra levy on Irish TV licence will be a bitter pill.

hould people who can’t even get broadband be expected to pay extra on their TV licence? A bitter row is brewing over the likelihood that all homeowners in Ireland will see their TV licence fee raised from €160 to €175. This is to accommodate the fact that people watch content from the internet on laptops, smartphones and other digital devices.

Ireland has been debating whether people with computers should also pay a TV licence fee for the best part of 20 years now.

The draft proposals for an upcoming Oireachtas Committee on Communications debate on the matter also include a potential “culture tax” that can be levied on internet service providers, according to a report in the Irish Independent. Proponents of the increase will argue that quality content and journalism needs to be paid for and that an increase in the TV licence to recognise the consumption of content on digital devices is needed.

Disconnected, disenfranchised and overtaxed?

But it comes at a time when connected consumers are downloading and streaming content from a myriad of sources and not only traditional outlets, such as national and local broadcasters. Some do not even have TVs any more, just broadband connections. However, is it fair to levy a broadband tax on TV owners when not every household can get quality internet access?

The public are still waiting for the National Broadband Plan to connect the approximately 550,000 homes and businesses in rural areas that require market intervention. Also, even if you can get broadband or can download content from a mobile network, it is a choice that not every homeowner will make, so why should they pay? Indeed, a senior civil servant at the Department of Communications, Mark Griffin, told a Dáil Public Accounts Committee meeting on the future of RTÉ that the “TV licence model is broken”.

Not only is it being suggested that the licence fee should increase from €160 to €175, but there is the suggestion that it should be linked with inflation in the future.

There is no doubt that public service broadcasting is a valuable service any civilised nation can provide its people. There is also no doubt that significant harm has been done to traditional media by the onset of free content and news on smartphones and the rise of pirate media via torrents. There is concern that unless media is properly funded, broadcasting in Ireland could end up going the direction of Fox News to sate commercial interests. However, applying a blanket increase on the shoulders of every homeowner, whether they use the internet or not, is not exactly clever. An alternative way should be found.

In the UK for example, a recent increase in the TV licence was made more palatable by the offer of free access to the BBC iPlayer if users submitted their TV licence number. Or perhaps a levy could be applied to existing broadband fees to support local media? However, there is no guarantee that would be any less popular than a blanket increase.

Catch the full article here in the Siliconrepublic
– Copyright Silicon Republic

Half of Irish adults would be prepared to relocate for a better broadband connection

Having a fast, strong broadband connection is so important for us that we would consider moving home for a better service.

According to the results of a recent Pure Telecom survey, half of Irish adults who experience inadequate broadband speeds would be prepared to relocate for an improved connection.

For those respondents who have broadband, three-quarters said that they are happy with their speeds, with 88pc maintaining that their home broadband speeds have remained the same or improved in the last 12 months.

Paul Connell, CEO, Pure Telecom, said that the results show that the internet plays a massive role in people’s lives.

“Many of the people affected by poor access live in rural Ireland. We need to help our rural communities thrive – not drive them into towns and cities because of internet problems,” he said.

“We hope that the National Broadband Plan will be announced and rolled out quickly so that people can access quality internet services no matter where they live.”

The survey of just over 1,000 Irish adults also revealed that the average person spends 6 hours, 20 minutes per day using their broadband connection at home – a total of 44 hours, 23 minutes per week.

“With the rise of applications like intelligent personal assistants, as well as online streaming and TV viewing, people are spending a significant amount of their time at home online – even downloading content as they sleep in some cases,” said Mr Connell.

Earlier this year, Pure Telecom signed a €35m deal with wholesale telecoms provider Open Eir, the wholesale arm of Eir.

The deal will allow Pure Telecom to offer almost two million customers high-speed broadband and phone services via Open Eir’s network.

Catch the full story here.

innovation - imagine lte

How does Ireland rank in terms of data innovation in the EU?

A new report from the Center For Data Innovation ranks EU countries in terms of how effectively they are harnessing the power of data.

Key EU data innovators

The top five countries in the EU that are the most innovative when it comes to their data are: the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland and Denmark, the latter snagging the No 1 spot. Ireland scraped into the top 10 at No 8, ahead of Malta but behind Austria.

The lowest-ranking countries in the EU are: Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Cyprus. Each of the lowest-ranking countries has a lower GDP per capita than the EU average but, according to the report, there is a notable correlation between corruption levels and the final data innovation score.

Three key recommendations

Three goals were outlined by the authors of the report to enable greater data innovation in EU countries. The first is to maximise the supply of reusable data.

Notably, the centre said administrations should both avoid laws and regulations that stifle the supply and flow of data, such as “overly burdensome data protection rules” and data localisation policies in different member states; and increase the supply of data, via open data and freedom of information policies.

Governments should also improve infrastructure that supports data innovation. Administrations should encourage the development of key technological platforms that enable data innovation, such as broadband, digital public services, smart meters and smart cities.

Finally, the centre said that development of data science and literacy skills in workers should be paramount throughout the education system and professional training programmes.

How did Ireland fare?

In terms of Ireland in particular, it missed out entirely on the data economy top 14, which measures the relative value of data market demand and data company revenues. No 1 here was Estonia, which makes sense given the many years the country has spent pushing the digitisation of its public administration.

Ireland didn’t make the top 14 for data market size, which measures the member states’ data market demand as a GDP percentage. The No 1 here was, again, Estonia. Ireland also missed out on the top 14 for open-data policy implementation.

Ireland’s businesses ranked below those in Cyprus, the Czech Republic and more in terms of adequate broadband support, but it did beat out the UK by four places. For domestic broadband, Ireland landed at N0 8, while Sweden took the top spot.

In the workforce data knowledge and skills rankings, Ireland came in at 14 out of the 28 member states, with Romania coming in last. Finland was the victor here.

Catch the full article here.

It’s like awaiting rural electrification in the 1950s all over again.

It is difficult to imagine it now but rural parts of Ireland underwent a technological revolution when electricity was finally delivered to people’s front doors in the 1950s. We can get an impression by watching the grainy, scratchy-sounding news reels showing people plugging in a kettle or a heater or switching on a light rather than an oil lamp or candle. Scepticism gave way to ready acceptance for the most part, opening a path for what would follow – several generations worth of research and innovation that delivered products and services that would have been impossible to imagine for those suddenly able to throw a switch to get warm.

Wind the clock forward and we are at it again. History has repeated itself with rural communities once again awaiting the arrival of advanced technology, this time in the form of a dependable high-speed broadband service. Urban areas have been wired up for years but business people away from population centres struggle to participate in ecommerce. The Government regularly issues statements on how well the delivery of fibre broadband is going but this has not stopped the complaints of communities where this magic “new” technology has yet to land.

Constraints

Of course there are constraints, mainly the cost of high-speed cabling – fibre – and on where the high speed connections will land next. But either we are going to provide these services or we are not. Stop telling country dwellers about how great it will be when it arrives – just deliver it.

The convolution of cost and geography – the longer the cable run the more it costs – was there in the 1950s and it is there for broadband, but there is one area where those living in the country might have an advantage – running your own private power station. Researchers have been looking for some time at using small windmills and solar panels to collect electricity that can be stored in batteries. These can be used to charge up the electric car and provide water and space heating with any supplementation needed coming from the existing ESB supply. Potentially, any surplus left in the battery at night could theoretically be sold back to the ESB, in the process reducing electricity costs for the home owner.

Could this really work? Maybe. It just depends on achieving agreement from all parties, from the homeowner to the power supply company and including the Government. Much of the necessary technology is already there, but one complexity to be sorted out is so called “smart metering”, power metering that allows electricity to flow in either direction and makes it possible to deliver power back into the distribution grid in a form it can use.

Renewable power

Academic researchers and companies such as ESB Networks, the people who run the grid to deliver power to our front door, have been working for years on developing ways to feed renewable power back into the national grid without disrupting the overall balance of the system. This is way more difficult than it might seem on paper and has been a challenge when trying to integrate intermittent wind-power resources with the grid.

Last week ESB Networks launched its “innovation strategy” with plans to spend more on research and the development of technology to develop truly smart metering and distribution technologies that take account of the individual consumer/supplier of electricity.

It presented eight road maps that will focus, among other things, on connecting more renewable sources, increase power demand for transport and home heating and developing a grid that in its entirety can be considered to be “smart”.

It describes plans to undertake “a whole suite of smart network research projects and trials”, but this one pulled me up short. ESB Networks has already been involved in this for years. So too have academic researchers in a wide range of areas from IT through engineering, physics, new materials, etc. You can also add in the dozens of companies that have formed, seeking to exploit the delivery of products and services to control heat, light and other services in the home either remotely via the internet or from a single location.

Catch the full article in the Irish Times

Tensions abound as broadband scheme enters crucial phase

Tensions abound as broadband scheme enters crucial phase.

 

Recently, the government inadvertently published some internal government documents revealing extra details on the cost and tension behind the National Broadband Plan rollout.

I say ‘inadvertently’ because the Government tried to redact the document but didn’t do it properly – anyone with a cursory knowledge of computers could unmask the black redacted strips.

One key issue revealed in the private memo was that the deal with Eir – to move 300,000 rural home and businesses out of the State’s 850,000-premise rollout intervention zone and into Eir’s own expedited rollout plans – will probably end up costing the State money and hit the rollout schedule, too.

“The department’s own subsidy modelling suggests that the smaller intervention area could lead to an increase in the overall cost of the state intervention,” said the document.

But how can covering an area with 550,000 premises cost more than an area of 850,000 premises?

They’re much harder to hook up, return less revenue and might face bridging tolls from Eir along the way.

“While intuitively it could be expected that a reduced intervention area would result in a lower subsidy, there are a number of factors putting upward pressure on the subsidy,” says the private position paper.

“The first arises because the reduction in the overall network build cost for the reduced intervention area is likely to be less than the reduction in revenues earned across the smaller number of premises. While there will be fewer premises to be connected in the reduced intervention area, these premises are in the more sparsely populated and hard-to-reach areas.

Read the full story here independent.ie

If National Broadband Plan will cost 60pc more, do we need a new plan?

If National Broadband Plan will cost 60pc more, do we need a new plan?

 

Ireland’s troubled intervention plan for broadband has hit some very serious speed bumps.

Ireland’s National Broadband Plan (NBP), geared to make Ireland the fibre testbed of Europe, is unravelling before our eyes.

The plan, costed at between €500m and €1bn (no one was ever clear on the figure), is now likely to cost 60pc more than what the politicians and civil servants predicted.

This is down to the cost of accessing Eir’s poles and ducts.

Dancing at the crossroads

The plan began with the best of intentions, and its coordinators, in their zeal, worked hard to make sure there were no gaps, no room for tribunals down the line, or any potential for accusations of favourable treatment for operators in the jealously contended race.

Its scope was vast. It aimed to bring a minimum of 30Mbps broadband to 750,000 postal addresses, 1.8m citizens, 96pc of the nation’s land mass and along 100,000km of road. An initial stimulus package of €275m was approved by Government up to 2020.

The first sign that the NBP, in its initial shape, was falling apart? The news that it was to be delayed, and that the final winners from the shortlist of Eir, Siro and Enet wouldn’t be announced in June 2017 as planned. Instead, it would be potentially delayed to late 2017, with construction starting in 2018, and the final citizens on the wrong side of the digital divide getting connectivity in 2023. Guess what? It is nearly late 2017!

The next sign that the plan was changing came in April when Communications Minister Denis Naughten, TD, signed a deal with Eir to target 300,000 homes in the intervention area – 890 communities – as part of a €200m deal with fibre on a commercial basis. This reduced the scope of the remaining plan to 542,000 premises, for 990,000 citizens (or 21pc of the population). The move created consternation among rival operators because it left them with the harder-to-reach areas and the feeling that Eir was gifted the low-hanging fruit.

Read the full story here. siliconrepublic.com

Government documents reveal cost of rural broadband could increase by a whopping 60%

The cost of rural broadband could rise by up to 60pc according to internal government documents.

 

Internal memos released under the Freedom Of Information Act show a feared National Broadband Plan price hike because of the government’s recent agreement with Eir to move 300,000 rural home and businesses out of the state’s 850,000-premise rollout intervention zone and into Eir’s own expedited rollout plans.

The rise in the scheme’s cost, which is already estimated to be over €500m, could come from Eir seeking fees from any winning bidder of the National Broadband Plan tender.

“The level of subsidy [that] bidders might seek for the reduced intervention area could increase by between 10pc and 15pc if an incremental cost is applied to infrastructure access, and by more than 60pc if the existing regulated price for pole and duct access is applied,” said the internal government memo setting out the government’s position.

“All three bidders have indicated that access to the new infrastructure built as part of the Eir 300,000 rural deployment, will be central to their bids. The cost to bidders of accessing this infrastructure in order to reach the Intervention Area is a critical factor that could significantly impact on the level of subsidy sought by bidders in the procurement process.”

The government wants Eir to charge a reduced price to this infrastructure while Eir insists that it is entitled to charge a market rate.

The increase in cost is likely to be absorbed by the taxpayer, as the government has promised that citizen access to state-subsidised rural broadband will not exceed average prices in urban areas.

Read the full story on the independent.ie

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