New government same old nonsense

New government same old nonsense

IrelandOffline, a leading consumer advocacy group for telecommunications, has become aware of a written answer given by the new Minster for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte(1). This answer is identical in wording and content to answers given by the previous Minister, Eamon Ryan. This calls into question any idea that the new Minister might be considering any changes in policy, at minimum, it illustrates a distinct lack of imagination amongst the staff of the Department.

Myths portrayed as facts

The Minister’s response to a question from FG TD Denis Naughten starts –

“The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband services, is a matter in the first instance for private sector service providers operating in a liberalised market regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).”

Ireland Offline has addressed this myth in previous press communications (2).

Ireland does not have a fully “liberalised” telecomms market – almost all the service providers are using eircom lines to provide broadband services. The only difference between existing providers currently is that they differ slightly in pricing and bundles. This is not true competition and most certainly does not represent a “liberalised market” in any shape or form. Like the famous Henry Ford remark “you can have any colour you want as long as it’s black”, in Irish telecomms you can have any provider you want as long as they use eircom lines. As a result of the liberalisation mentioned by Ministers Rabbitte and his predecessor, Irish customers pay Europe’s highest line rentals and the highest broadband costs(3). Several iterations of the sale of the former monopoly supplier have resulted in a lack of investment due to leveraged buyout debt. Privatisation has resulted in nearly €3 Billion of asset stripping, not in private investment.(4,5)

Minster Rabbitte says :

“In cases of market failure the Government will intervene, where it is appropriate and possible to do so. The National Broadband Scheme (NBS) represents such an intervention. Broadband services are now available throughout the entire NBS area.”

In several documents, IrelandOffline has clearly pointed out that the NBS is a subsidy for a mobile phone rollout and does nothing to provide reliable or quality broadband services. The only solution to the problem is proper fixed broadband in areas not currently served. We urge the Minister to work extensively and urgently on a rollout of fibre optic cables as described in the programme for government and not rely on previous failed policies. New thinking is required at this point rather than business as usual.

Commenting on the written answer Eamonn Wallace chairman of IrelandOffline said: “No matter who gets elected the government remains the same and the permanent government continues to try to spin it’s way out of the mess we are in due to repeated policy failures”

(1) http://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2011-04-05.349.0&s=%22Telecommunications+Ser
vices.%22

(2) http://irelandoffline.org/2010/10/the-myth-of-the-competitive-market/
(3) http://irelandoffline.org/2011/02/irish-broadband-tariffs-are-the-highest-in-the-eu/
(4) http://www.davidmcwilliams.ie/2001/05/06/leverage-sharks-circle-telecoms
(5) http://regulation.upf.edu/dublin-10-papers/6J2.pdf

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