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Ireland sets three year target for cheap broadband

But first, flat rate Internet

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Ireland's Minister for Communications, Dermot Ahern, has set a deadline for affordable broadband in the country.

The targets for broadband roll-out in Ireland were included in a new government draft policy statement published to coincide with this week's launch of Ireland's new and more powerful Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.

"The government wants to see the widespread availability of open-access, affordable, 'always on' broadband infrastructure and services for businesses and citizens throughout the state within three years," the direction says.

This three-year target is roughly in line with the plan that the government published in April in its second Action Plan on the Information Society. That document, called "New Connections," also called for affordable broadband in three years, although it was published over six months ago.

The document also includes a provision that is designed to ensure "the widespread availability" of flat-rate dial-up Internet access. "The commission shall make use of its powers under the legislation as appropriate, to bring about agreements among market players for the provision to the public of dial-up Internet access charged at flat-rates," the direction said. This strongly worded aim had been widely expected from the Minister.

In general, the new document from Minister Ahern's office says that ComReg should work to place Ireland on a competitive par with the top OECD economies in terms of key Internet and communications benchmarks, including price, quality and choice.

Under the ODTR (Comreg's predecessor), Ireland performed fairly well in some categories measured by OECD, including the "National Residential Basket" which examines the average cost of national calls for the residential sector. In this segment the Republic ranked 8th out of 30 nations, or 6 places ahead of the OECD average. In the "National Business Basket" Ireland ranked in 9th place, 8 spots ahead of the OECD average.

But the country's most damning figure is high speed Internet, where Ireland ranks 27th out of 30 OECD countries in terms of broadband development.

Other points in Ahern's document included directions on applying regulations only when necessary as well as ensuring that Irish regulations are consistent with other EU member states.

The document said that the Minister's strategic objective for the communications sector is to provide a major contribution to sustained macro-economic growth and competitiveness. This will be accomplished by measures including promoting investment in state-of-the-art infrastructures and by developing "a leading edge research and development reputation in the information, communications and digital technologies sectors," according to a statement from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

© ENN

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