Fine Gael's Communications Spokesman Simon Coveney TD, today launched a radical plan designed to pressurise the Government into the the delivery of next generation broadband across the country and in so doing improve Ireland's competitiveness. The Government has been lethargic and complacent for too long. Hopefully the FG proposals will elicit a prominent Government response.
The ten point plan is strong on analysis of the problem but more importantly it is brimful of concrete proposals designed to expedite the roll out of the next generation broadband communications infrastructure delivering high speeds.
Mr Coveney stated that Government broadband policy had failed to deliver in terms of penetration and in particular in terms of bandwidth and download speed. Ireland is 33rd out of 35 OECD countries for average internet speeds, ahead of only Mexico and Turkey.
"According to the latest OECD figures, 15.4% of the Irish population subscribes to broadband, with speeds of little over 3 Mb per second, while the OECD average is 13.7 Mb per second...
In Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland, over 30% have broadband access."
Many of Ireland’s developed economy competitors have long since seen the importance of investment in Next Generation Access.
Korea is recognised as the world leader in such investment. Through its “Korea Information Infrastructure Project” (KII), launched in March 1995, the government invested US$800 million in putting a government-owned fibre-optic backbone network in the ground.
Successive investments by both private and public sectors have seen the country remain close to the top of global league tables for both penetration and average speeds ever since. It now enjoys average download speeds of 43.3Mbps.
Japan is another country in which the government recognised at an early stage the importance of investment in high-speed internet infrastructure, and the country now enjoys average speeds of 93.6Mbps
"Fine Gael's document 'Creating a Fibre Nation' mandates the Department of Communications to undertake a comprehensive audit of all ducting capable of accommodating fibre optic cable, both in public and private ownership. Following this audit, we are calling on the Government to tender out to the private sector a ducting roll out programme that will facilitate and encourage the investment in fibre optic cable that is required for next generation broadband access.
"What is particularly important is the need to upgrade the existing copper wire infrastructure to fibre optic cable.
"Essentially what the State needs to do is invest in expensive ducting infrastructure as well as coordinating existing infrastructure to create a broadband fibre network with adequate back haul in the ownership of the private and public sector.
"There is also an urgent need for legislation to be passed to require ducting for broadband to be installed in all new housing and apartment developments as well as being part of all new road-building.
"Fine Gael also calls on the Government to review and upgrade its National Broadband Scheme to provide for high-speed internet access to rural areas of the country. Otherwise Government policy will be adding to an already existing urban-rural divide.
"For any country competing in the global economy, next generation broadband access is essential, but for Ireland, shortcomings in this area are a serious impediment to our plans to create an economy based on technology, innovation, research and development".
The full FG broadband policy document can be viewed at Fine Gael