This week saw the official announcement of something or other to do with broadband in Ireland. If that sounds a bit vague, well I’m sorry. I’m never quite clear about these ‘official’ events/launches/occasions: there is no new information – we all knew that 3 had got the job of supposedly providing broadband for all the places in Ireland that don’t already have it – just lots of smiling and congratulating and posing and repeating of tired mantras and ignoring difficult questions. Political posturing at its finest.
Now that it’s all ‘official’ (rather than just decided?) I suppose we can all comment on it. The newspapers are, briefly, full of smiley, posey pictures; all the politicians and aspiring politicians crawl out of the slime to either congratulate the government on another brilliant scheme or berate them for wasting money on another half-baked idea.
As far as the national picture is concerned, looking at the positives, it’s great that the government is prepared to step in and fund the provision of broadband for everybody. On the negative side, the government have surely set the bar too low, in that: less than 2MB cannot really be considered broadband in the 21st century (forget the moans about bandwidth reducing when there are lots of users – all broadband is contended); the target of ‘covering the whole country’ is imprecise – in the UK they are specifying the supply of broadband ‘to every household’, which is quite different.
To illustrate the second criticism, consider Achill. The island, as far as the NBS is concerned, is split into two parts: one is on the ‘planned’ list, the other is on the ‘not included’ list. Why does one part of the island miss out? Well, there is already a 3 mast which, notionally, covers this part of the island. The reality, as anyone with the slightest experience of cellphone signals will realise, is that in some spots there is a great signal but move around the corner and there is none. Achill is not flat; hills get in the way, leaving ‘shadows’ where there is no signal. Then there are walls: most broadband users do not want to sit in the garden surfing the net, at least not in Ireland. So again, some houses and offices are fine, others get nothing. There is no reason to believe that the ‘planned’ part of Achill will fare any better.
Achill is not a special case: this picture will be repeated all over the country. Hence to say that the whole country will be covered by broadband, one way or another, is meaningless. You’ll find the usual ‘haves and have-nots’ thing between wired and wireless areas, and between good and bad signal areas. Let’s not pretend, either, that the proposed satellite coverage for areas where a cellular signal is impractical is the answer. As a satellite ‘broadband’ user for several years, I can attest to the deeply unsatisfactory nature of this ‘solution’.
I have no doubt that, if I am one of the lucky ones, I will appreciate the improvements of cellular broadband over satellite broadband, but I will continue to look with envy at those a few miles up the road with their DSL lines.
Life in Currane, national politics, politics, technology