sábado, 10 de febrero de 2018

Improving broadband in Ireland

Ireland is a developed but improvable country in broadband, as we analyze in collaboration with Muireann Duffy. With rural electrification in 1940-1950, electricity began to be consumed by households on a daily basis throughout the entire country, paving the way for computers and other such technologies to become staples in Irish homes.
 Resultat d'imatges de irlanda

Ireland's first form of internet connection came via DSL (digital subscriber line) connections, which connected computers or routers to telephone wires, which were already installed in the vast majority of Irish homes, in order to access the internet. Seeing as Ireland is now regarded as one of the most technologically advanced countries in Europe, if not the world, it is hard to believe these DSL connections only came into use just before the turn of the millennium, meaning that the ordinary people of Ireland have only had household access to internet for roughly 20 years.

Although access to the internet increased the quality of life for many people in terms of business, communication, recreation etc., issues with ease of access, speed and reliability were plentiful. Using a DSL connection to connect to the internet required unplugging the household phone or ‘landline’, meaning that no calls could be made or received while the internet was in use. Alternatively, a connection separate to the phone line could be installed, but this was too expensive an option for many households.

As the demand for internet access continued to grow in Ireland, DSL connections were no longer fit for purpose, leading to its replacement, broadband. The first broadband connections began to be installed in Ireland in the early 2000’s, finally allowing somewhat greater speed and ending the need for connections via phone lines. Although broadband was a huge step forward for internet in the county, it still had a long way to go before it reached the standard that we have today.

As the Irish economy began to boom in the 2000’s, during what is known as the ‘Celtic Tiger’ era, the need for high speed broadband became more essential than ever. As many multinational companies began searching for locations to set up European headquarters, it was essential that Ireland had adequate broadband speeds in order to draw MNCs to our country.

Ireland became a huge point of interest for many of these companies, such as DELL, Pfizer, eBay, Google, to name but a few, for a number of reasons. Having access to a well educated, English speaking workforce in a county with a Common Law system was very attractive for these companies, with the added incentive of Ireland’s extremely low corporate tax level of just 12.5%, a number of MNC’s began to set up shop in the a number of cities throughout Ireland, mainly Dublin, but also in the likes of Cork, Galway and Limerick. These companies in turn aided the development of broadband services in Ireland as it was essential to the maintenance of their business interests.

While broadband for businesses rose to an exceptional standard in a number of larger towns and cities throughout Ireland, the problem remained that the majority of households were left with substandard internet access.

For the first number of years, Ireland’s broadband was almost exclusively distributed by ‘Eircom’, formerly Telecom Éireann, which was a state-sponsored body. It was not until the Government began the privatisation of Eircom that other broadband providers began to emerge.

With a greater choice of providers for consumers, competition between broadband providers grew and grew. While at first the companies attempted to gain customers through reduced prices, eventually this competition led to the improvement of broadband networks in order for these companies to offer their users higher speeds.

While Ireland became a forerunner in Europe for broadband connection speeds, many outside observers failed to identify the divide between urban and rural broadband networks. While cities like Dublin operated at world class broadband speeds, parts of rural Ireland were still being forced to use DSL connections, as broadband simply wasn’t good enough in their areas.

In 2011, a study conducted by the International Telecommunication Union found that 77% of the Irish population, amounting to 3.6 million people, were active internet users, placing Ireland as the 70th nation in the world for internet usage. These findings illustrated that the internet usage was becoming a basic need for the people of Ireland and measures had to be put in place to rectify the below par standard of broadband in rural Ireland.

In August 2012, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte announced a National Broadband Scheme with the aim of improving broadband services throughout the country. In his speech, Minister Rabbitte outlined what the government hoped to achieve with the scheme: 70-100 Mbit/s broadband service available to at least 50% of the population, at least 40 Mbit/s available to at least a further 20% and a minimum of 30 Mbit/s available to everyone, no matter how rural or remote their area.

In 2016, the new Minister for Communication, Dennis Naughton announced that the National Broadband Scheme had been delayed, but efforts are being made to this day to ensure that the government fulfill their promise, especially to the people of rural Ireland who remain with reliable, high-speed internet connections in an age where internet access is becoming regarded as a basic human right.

Although the delays to the NBS have left rural Ireland lagging behind, urban Ireland has continued to push ahead with the arrival of ‘Virgin Media’ introducing fibre optic connections to Irish towns and villages for the first time. These fibre optic connects have once again increased internet connection speeds and pushed Ireland ahead of many countries once again in terms of broadband capabilities.

As continues to be the case since the privatisation of Telecom Éireann as I mentioned previously, the broadband sector in Ireland has continued to expand, with a wide range of providers now becoming available to consumers, for example: Eir, Vodafone, Three, Virgin Media, Sky, etc. This high level of competition between companies has ensured that high-quality service, competitive prices and high-speed internet to many Irish consumers.

Membership in the European Union may also aid Ireland’s attempts to improve broadband in rural areas as it has previously been outlined by the European Commission’s President, Jean-Claude Juncker, that every effort will be made to improve essential infrastructure throughout the European Union, including broadband, transport and hospitals. This follows a period of frugality in the Union, which was necessary due to the collapse of a number of EU countries’ economies, including Ireland. The lack of spending on infrastructure by both the Irish government and the EU during this period of economic downturn has led to an increased need for funding now to insure citizens can continue to access services which they require daily. In order to enhance the Irish broadband network, major investment is needed urgently and a joint effort from both the Irish government and the EU is needed to optimise broadband in Ireland.

In conclusion, despite Ireland’s ranking as 37th in regards to fixed downloading speeds (or 53rd for mobile downloading speeds), a lot of work still needs to be done to improve the standard of internet access available to Irish citizens throughout the nation. As a country that is so reliant on business from overseas, especially in areas of technology a reaffirmation of the National Broadband Scheme is essential in order to continue to push Ireland down the track of high-speed and reliable internet access.

We analyze international broadband evolution (here, the case of Ireland) in this blog, in Research Group about Digital Journalism and Marketing and Broadband and in Research Group on Innovative Monetization Systems of Digital Journalism, Marketing and Tourism (SIMPED), from CECABLE,  Escola Universitària Mediterrani of UdGUPF and Blanquerna-URL, in Twitter (@CECABLEresearch), Google+, in the group of LinkedIn, in the page of LinkedIn, in the group of Facebook, in Instagram (CECABLE), in Pinterest and in this blog. We will go in deep in the XXIII Cable and Broadband Catalonia Congress (10-11 April 2018, Barcelona).

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