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Broadband prices are still too high in Ireland, and must be cut if the country is to make the most of the technology's potential, according to Dermot Ahern, Ireland's communications minister.

Speaking yesterday at Knowledge-based Regions in the Information Society, an international conference in Killarney, Ahern said "the dramatic growth in demand for broadband has not been matched by the level of investment that is required to satisfy that demand."

"There is, quite simply, a market failure. The supply side is not meeting the demand. There is no meaningful competition. The price of broadband is still too high, particularly for ADSL, and must be brought down further if we are to realise the potential offered by the technology."

His comments follow a hive of activity in the past few months that have seen broadband prices drop to around €30 per month, which has been the target price of consumer groups for years. When converted to sterling, the price is comparable to that of similar services in the UK.

Competition in the Irish broadband market has also stepped up a notch. In March, Digiweb became the country's fourth supplier of ADSL broadband services. With a connection fee of €89 and a monthly charge of €38.99, Digiweb's HomeJet residential ADSL service is cheaper than Eircom's. but pricier than UTV Internet, which has a service that costs €29.99 per month, plus €99 for installation.

Under the Irish government's six-year National Development Plan, which began in 2000, around €200m has been set aside for broadband infastructure.

Much of this has been in co-funded projects such as the Metropolitan Area Networks in 90 towns and cities, which uses European and regional development funds and government funding to kick-start the rollout of ADSL to many areas of the country. Another initiative is the creation of a 1,300 kilometre fibre trunk along the national power transmission grid.

"Broadband is the enabler of prosperity, education and social inclusion in the knowledge economy of the future," Ahern said yesterday. "The different platforms for delivery of broadband will all have a part to play in the lives of each and every citizen. I have consistently held that the key ingredients for success in broadband are the 'three Cs' of cost, choice and competition and I will continue driving home that message."

© ENN

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