Failure to communicate

Fibre optic cable
Image: Stockfresh

Lack of progress on the National Broadband Plan is enough to make you give up on fixed line connections altogether



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9 November 2018 | 0

There was an interesting story in the Irish Times this week which stated that only one in seven homes in rural Ireland that had been offered high-speed broadband by eir had taken it up.

The newspaper said figures it had obtained showed only 28,000 out of 200,000 homes offered connections had subscribed. The thrust of the piece was that the low uptake was causing concern in the government, especially considering the debacle over the tender process for the National Broadband Plan and the growing estimates of the costs required to set it up.

The paper revealed that some government figures believed he present process may need to be abandoned after Peter Smyth concludes his audit on the tender process in the wake of Denis Naughten’s resignation and a new broadband plan will have to be drawn up.

As someone who is on the sharp end of this issue, continuing uncertainty over the National Broadband Plan and its implementation is leading me to take a radical step and abandon my fixed broadband/phone line altogether. Why?

My current broadband connection has a maximum speed of 5Mb/s. According to the eir coverage checker, my home is “outside of a commercial deployment for high speed fibre broadband”. As such it is “included in the National Broadband Plan (NBP)”.

A quick check on the Dept of Communications, Climate Action & Environment (DCCAE) website confirms that I live in an amber area. As such I am “in an area that is not considered commercial by operators. This area will be covered under the state intervention of the National Broadband Plan”.

So, any advance in broadband speed for my house in the near(ish) future is held hostage to the government’s botched roll-out of the NBP. According to the updated NBP, published in December 2015, the government’s objective is “to achieve 100% access to high speed broadband in the intervention area by the end of 2020”.

Even if it achieves that objective which, at this stage, seems highly unlikely, that’s still two years off. What am I supposed to do in the meantime?

On the wireless
The cheapest and most effective solution for me has been to go for mobile broadband. So that’s what I did last week. And it’s proving to be much much better than my fixed line broadband. As an illustration, I conducted three different speed tests on 9 November and my download speeds were 27Mb/s, 32Mb/s and 34Mb/s while my upload speeds were 10.5Mb/s, 12.4Mb/s and 13Mb/s.

How long would I have to wait to get something similar via fixed line broadband? A lot more than two years if the DCCAE website is any guide. According to the page devoted to the NBP, the definition of high-speed broadband is “a minimum speed of 30Mb/s download and 6Mb/s upload”. I’m already getting speeds above those benchmarks two years in advance of the original NBP implementation. I’m also getting unlimited data.

True, I’m going to lose my phone connection but hardly anyone calls me on the landline anymore and I rarely use it to make calls to other people either. I admit though that it’s still a bit of a wrench as it feels like I’m cutting the cord and acknowledging the slow death of a technology which has made such a difference to our lives over the years.

But there are other options, such as FaceTime, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Messenger and Skype, and the efficiency of those applications for making calls will benefit greatly from my much-improved broadband speeds.

Who knows? Perhaps, when the NBP is implemented, there will be a good reason to go back to a fixed line broadband connection. Right now, however, it makes little sense to hang on until it arrives. Especially as it hasn’t even begun yet.

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