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Ireland gagging for affordable broadband

What do they want? Broadband! When do they want it? Now!

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Ireland is gagging for affordable broadband, according to a survey of 1,400 net users internet lobby group IrelandOffline.

Campaigners say that many dial-up users are eager to switch to an always-on high-speed service but that they are not within reach of a suitable broadband connection.

Others maintain that the dial-up packages on offer are simply not up to scratch because they cost too much and are limited by usage restrictions.

Twelve months ago incumbent telco Eircom announced plans to reach 90 per cent broadband coverage in Ireland by March 2006 and called on the Government to deliver the rest so that the country could have 100 per cent broadband coverage by 2007.

However, IrelandOffline is critical of Eircom's figures. While it may be true that the exchanges serving 90 per cent of the population may be enabled, poor line quality and distance from exchanges means that many people are still unable to hook up to broadband - even though they are connected to a broadband-enabled exchange.

While around 90 per cent of the country is wired to a DSL-enabled exchange, IrelandOffline says that only between 70 and 75 per cent of people can access the service.

"It is quite apparent from our survey that those on dial-up are crying out for broadband and are completely frustrated at not being able to move over to broadband," said IrelandOffline spokesman John Timmons.

"More than any other factor, the lack of availability of broadband is the prime reason why Ireland is still a nation of dial-up users isolated from the rest of broadband Europe."

According to figures published by regulator ComReg, the average monthly Internet bill is €34.20 (£23.40) and that dial-up is still the most used method to get online.

"We call on the Minister... to introduce a cheaper and full, not partial flat-rate product so those suffering dial-up are at the very least not punished with bills more expensive than flat-rate broadband.

"With the lack of progress on broadband we are going to be a dial-up nation until the end of the decade, genuine flat-rate dial-up may at least soften the blow."

No one from Eircom - which is the target of a take-over bid - was available for comment at the time of writing. ®

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