Well if there’s one thing you can bank on our friends in the US of A it’s for an interesting turn of phrase. The IIA’s “acronymsake”, (that’s my really interesting turn of phrase!) the Internet Innovation Alliance, who are based in the US have been very concerned for some time now about the “exaflood”. As the video below puts it 1 exabyte of data if converted to DVD quality video would take 50,000 years to watch. Therefore the Internet Innovation Alliance predict that an exaflood is imminent. They are “a broad-based coalition of business and non-profit organizations committed to more widespread usage and availability of broadband through wise policy decisions”. Other statistics included in this video make a compelling case for ensuring your voice is heard in relation to the Irish Government’s plan for Next Generation Broadband. We are all very aware that internet trends and their impacts cannot be confined to one country and similar growth should be expected and prepared for in Ireland’s knowledge economy. So please leave your comments below or read the views of the IIA’s Physical Infrastructure Working Group as outlined by Keith Bohanna, Chair and add your comments there. Getting involved in consultation like this is as important an aspect of democracy as voting. And anyway it’s not possible that you are too busy outside enjoying the sun…
Firstly feedback on some of the Government Commitments:
1. A breakdown of the €435M would be necessary before any judgement can be made on it’s relevance. Across 7 years this is €62M a year – a very small amount in the context of investment in other essential infrastructure. If this includes planned investment in Metropolitan Area Networks(MAN’s), the National Broadband Scheme and Broadband to Schools then there will be little left over for anything else.
2. This pledge of universal access does not address the cost issue for people not serviced by more than one provider. It is difficult to see this happening by 2010 given the probable need to build out infrastructure to support it. And the speed target of 2012 of being equal to “comparator EU regions” is unambitious – do we not want to establish leadership in this area?
3. This aim is meaningless for the majority of schools who do not fall within the HEANet/MAN infrastructure that will be used to deliver this. How is it proposed to deliver a 100Mbits to those schools? And phased means forever and ever ( or never).
This announcement happens 2 weeks after 18 school ICT advisers around the country were told by the Department of Education that they are being sent back to their classrooms from their secondment and coincides with the ongoing absence of the National Development Plan Schools ICT strategy (announced by the Government in February 2007). Is the intended €252m investment under the Schools ICT plan now part of the €435M?
4. Value for money is vital – but must be balanced against the need for intervention in an area which is speculative – in the same way that we invested in our education system in the 60’s and 70’s which reaped long term benefits in the Celtic Tiger era.
5. Hard to tell what this means.
6. The commitments on backhaul mean that the Minister will have to establish an organisation (another quango?) which either facilitates negotiations with a multiplicity of semi-state bodies or instead takes a direct interest in elements of their assets. It would be optimistic to say that could be hideously slow.
9. This statement is meaningless without some indication of what exactly is meant by it. Is the Minister going to make fundamental changes to the procedures followed, and responsibilities held, by existing purchasing sections across all Departments?
Feedback on other areas of the document:
It is worth noting that a number of the commitments will mean substantial initiatives being driven from this Department. This is the same Department which lacks the basic manpower necessary to administer the National Broadband Scheme – this information was obtained by the Irish Times and also Damien Mulley using Fredom Of Information.
From the documents obtained:
“Various recent developments have given rise to extreme pressure on existing staff within my area . . . again, due to the existing bar on recruitment of new resources to the department, I have no civil servant working on the National Broadband Scheme.” – January 2008 memo from Mr Spratt to Assistant Secretary Peter O’Neill and human resources department requesting additional resources
In a section on Potential Uses of next generation broadband (Page 6) the issue of demand stimulation is covered. However there is no mention of the build out of Government/State services here (although it is referred to on Page 41). This is a tricky area and again would mean leadership being shown and a need for cross-Department cooperation.
The section on International NGN developments is interesting in that it does not include any reference to the existing European NGN networks in Scandinavia (maybe because they have a lower population density than Ireland and thus would not suit the case being made here?).
In addition only passing reference is made to the fact that in many countries who are world leaders in this area (Japan is named here) their broadband policies are only a small part of their overall ICT development policies so that they have a strong context.
Unfortunately in Ireland we appear to be developing the broadband plan first and the ICT plan (from which the broadband plan should be taken) second.
In the NGN developments in Ireland section (Page 21) there is an telling omission. At the end of the third paragraph it says: “This strategy of focussing on the residential market appears to reflect the fact that, in general, the requirements of large corporate users are adequately addressed through existing market mechanisms”.
Although this is merely commentary on the marketplace where are the small to medium businesses in all of this? They make up over 97% of our businesses and employ more than half of our private sector work force and yet do not have access to the broadband services available to large corporates. They make do with barely ramped up domestic offerings coupled with indifferent customer service.
This is a market failure and it is not explicitly addressed here.
The section which analyses the Possible Government policy approaches (Page 33) appears to make sense. However the context here is the budget of €435M available – this does not actually allow for Approach 1 (direct Government support) to be considered as a option on cost grounds so it is little surprise that it is discounted in favour of “providing a competitive environment to spur innovation and investment”. Considerably cheaper!
Also in this section the challenges around the business model for the MAN’s is acknowledged yet there is no explicit suggestion on the changes that maybe made to improve this situation.
UPDATE – Consultant paper here (2Mb download)
Keith Bohanna, Chair of the IIA Physical Infrastructure Working group
The Irish Internet Association (IIA) welcomes the Government’s plan for next generation broadband which was launched yesterday by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamonn Ryan, T.D
The ten-step plan includes targets for physical infrastructure, access and research. The IIA in particular welcomes the Government’s acknowledgement of the importance of education through its promise of 100 Mbs access in all secondary schools on a phased basis.
CEO of the IIA, Fergal O’Byrne, said that, while increasing access is a major step addressed by the plan, the IIA have always maintained that the Irish Government should ensure not only Availability but Affordability and Access Speeds as well. The IIA contributed submissions to the Government’s consultation process comprising these key aspects and other concerns voiced by the IIA membership. In order to do this the IIA set up a Physical Infrastructure Working Group whose membership includes key stakeholders and experts in the area.
The Government has called for further submissions on this policy with a deadline of September 30th 2008 and we want to hear your opinion on their proposed policy. Please feel free to leave comments via the comments or mail members at iia dot ie.
You can access the Consultation Paper on Next Generation Broadband as a PDF on the Department website. Make sure you have broadband and time before you download: it’s 2Mb and 61 pages.
Keith Bohanna, chair of the IIA Physical Infrastructure Working Group will be writing a post on this blog which will expand on some of the issues and we will welcome comments on his post as well.
The IIA think that as a knowledge economy Ireland should be leading the world in software services, online services and eGovernment and in order to do that cutting edge broadband infrastructure is a must.
Japan, the Scandinavian countries and other parts of Europe all enjoy broadband access at much higher speeds than are currently available anywhere in Ireland, at a fraction of the cost. The IIA look to these countries as an example of the broadband services that Irish businesses and citizens can look forward to if the Government implement the policy which they launched today as expeditiously as possible.
Maeve Kneafsey, IIA Chair and MD of Elucidate was recently asked to contribute to a Sunday Times article about broadband in light of Vodafone‘s entry into the market. Here below are her thoughts which make a handy pocket sized guide to choosing broadband in Ireland.
What should consumers expect to get from a decent basic broadband package?
One of the big things for consumers to watch out for is not just the monthly cost, but also to compare the speed or megabytes (mb) they are being offered and all the additional extras involved in installing the service into their home or business. There can be a lot of hidden costs, so check the detail and then make your cost comparison. Watch out for the cap on the amount of files you can transfer in any given month as this can be really expensive if you go over your cap. The opening offer from Vodafone for a 2mb broadband connection for EUR49.00 a month, includes installation.
What is the best type of broadband – (ADSL), cable-TV connections, or wirelessly through the air via a satellite dish or aerial?
Depends on what is most important to you, convenience (being able to move around), speed, cost and of course if the service or choice are available in your area. Most areas don’t even have a huge choice as often served by one or two service providers.
Wireless via satellite can be expensive, wireless via the air is reliable and convenient (depending on providers coverage of course) but can be a bit slow (e.g. 3.5mb or download or upload speed), sky offer 8-9mb which seems very fast, ADSL still seems to be the fastest and the most reliable, but it is not always the cheapest and it may not be available in your area. Also watch out if it says it is an up to 2mb it may be less than 2mb.
What is the best way of shopping around for a deal?
Maybe start by using a very handy online tool called the Broadband Calculator that allows you to fill in your preferences and it will deliver a result – http://www.callcosts.ie/broadband/Broadband_Calculator.175.LE.asp which is (from what I can tell) an independent source of information. It asks you questions such as do you want to exclude the cost of a telephone line rental as some providers don’t need a phone line to operate, what speed you want etc.
I would also use the price comparison websites http://www.broadband.gov.ie/List+all++Services/ to compare costs and download speeds. However, your journey does not end there, because then you have to check that your shortlist providers are available in your area which you can find out from http://mapviewer.broadband.gov.ie/ServiceByLocationSearchWF.aspx.
Then double check there aren’t any hidden costs associated with installation and add-ons to your monthly charges, which may not have been mentioned earlier. You need to double check exactly what you will see as a total charge on your monthly bill before you agree to sign up to any service provider. No harm in asking them to confirm by email. You should also check how long it will take before it will be set up (“Is there a waiting list?”) and exactly what is involved. You don’t want to be sitting waiting all day for them to arrive, or have a team ready to work without any access to broadband. So ask how this is managed and can you book a specific time for installation.
An added difficulty can be getting a response from the providers, especially if you contact them via their website or email. But if they do offer you to contact them via email or their website and don’t respond to your query, it might indicate how well they will deal with you in the future if you are experiencing problems with your service.
Who do you think is offering the best deal at the moment?
I would love to answer this one, but it depends on what is the top priority for you. Is it speed, ability to move around, reliability, availability in your area or cost? Good luck!
John Kennedy writes in SiliconRepublic about last week’s Congress, “Bartley O’Connor, associate director of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Ireland, said there is a digital divide emerging between businesses that have broadband and those that don’t.” He quotes Bartley as saying ““This is affecting business start-ups, not just end users. There could be hundreds more businesses in the country if not for the lack of broadband. People are losing out.”
We’re acutely aware of this in the IIA. A search of our online member database using the keyword Donegal, for example, shows exactly how few companies in Donegal are members. (Yeeessss ROADTRIP!!) Joking aside the IIA is seeking to address this and other issues by bringing together industry experts, interested parties and stakeholders in Working Groups. In relation to this issue the Infrastructure Working Group are already busy and we expect to see a position paper from them in the near future.
Regardless of the broadband situation, the IIA is a countrywide organisation and the 4th of June will see us not quite in Donegal but in Derry running a course entitled “Making your Web Strategy pay”. This event is sold out but you can catch it again in Belfast on the 5th June.
John Kennedy also writes about how his meeting with Bebo’s Head of Sales Mark Charkin and their new Head of Sales in Ireland Philip Macartney at the IIA Congress. John describes how this pair told him about how they are ”forging alliances with major media firms including the BBC, MTV and CBS to drive its monetisation strategy.”
As the Irish internet tipping point of one million Irish broadband users hoves into sight, Amas in conjunction with us here in the IIA, release State of the Net Issue 9. This is available to all via our Resources section of the IIA site. We will also be distributing print editions to delegates at Congress 2008.
This quarter’s edition of State of the Net covers:
- Key statistics from the first Joint National Internet Research presented by Tim Griffiths, JNIR Chair
- A distillation of the latest key figures from the CSO in relation to internet use, examining usage by age and region in particular
- A review of Comreg’s latest business information and communications technology survey results
- Figures about broadband uptake and coverage
- Business use of eGovernment for full electronic case handling
- The rise and rise of mobile
- What are Irish internet users searching for?
- The majority of online shoppers have no complaints
AMAS, who are members of the IIA, are a consultancy specialising in online channels and they help businesses and government bodies to plan, manage, evaluate and market their online channels.