Stop feeding the beast

Stop feeding the beast

On Tuesday last the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications played host to a delegation from the Association of Alternative Telecommunications Operators (ALTO) a trade association of ten telco operators all of whom are not Eir. The presentation followed a well ordered scheme with the Vodafone representative talking about investment ‘risk’, the Sky guy about regulation and BT’s man explaining the games that can be played with, for example, address matching.

The problem

This is essentially the same problem as 10 years ago as outlined by this contribution:

“Wholesale connection charges in the Irish market are more than twice the equivalent charged in the UK and a multiple of the fees charged in other markets. Wholesale operators in the market are paying a connection charge of €272 for the full Eir fibre to the home, FTTH, product. That compares to €113 in the UK and €67 in Spain, with a minimum multi-wholesale rental of €23, putting Ireland’s as one of the highest wholesale broadband prices in Europe.”

Which obviously leads to some of the highest prices for consumers in the EU.


The ‘Styles’ reports which catalogue the myriad ways Eircom systematically disadvantages its wholesale customers were referenced quite often

Each made their points and the meeting duly ended about an hour and half later with ALTO’s chairman Ronan Lupton concluding that ComReg needed more powers, more personnel with much higher salaries, and that its application to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform along those lines should be supported.

Meanwhile at home those of us who’ve grown long in the tooth watching the Irish telecoms pantomime were having flashbacks. Hasn’t ComReg been looking for more money, staff, salaries, resources, deference from the courts etc, and especially “powers”, since well…forever.

Has European and national law not been duly updated to meet every wish that Comreg has expressed, and hasn’t Eircom still continued to run rings around it as comprehensively as they did fourteen years ago when Eircom’s sociopathic behavior, when faced with regulation, was noted approvingly by the stock analyst from Smith Barney.

Comreg (again)

Let’s be clear, ALTO’s objectives and those of consumers are quite different but ALTO will not get fairer treatment by cosying up to ComReg in support of its fondness for high salaries and high living. Moreover the scale of what is allegedly being sought is breathtaking. Upwards of 70 new economists, regulation specialists and lawyers are proposed, which is on top last year’s increased payroll costs, now averaging €114,000  (up 12%), external lawyers fees now €2.2M (up 30%), consultants fees; now €9.2M (up 45%), plush new offices; €2.5M (up 71%), and so on.

ComReg was ineffectual in 2002 when it cost €12 million. Now in 2018 it is equally ineffectual, but costs €32 million. To quote Mr Lupton, “plus ça change”, the only sensible solution is the abolition of Comreg and to start all over again.

In 2002 the cheaper Comreg had not yet given us the highest line rental charges in the world and the cheaper regulator of yesteryear had not landed the Irish consumer with the highest cost, entry level, broadband bundles in Europe. Every Irish consumer is at least €10 a month worse off today and there are around 1 million price-gouged victims out there thanks to Comreg. The newer “improved” Comreg has done absolutely nothing with it’s latest powers.

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