Ireland Offline group powers down

Fri, Jun 8, 2007, 01:00

Broadband pressure group Ireland Offline ceases operations today after six years of campaigning for increased availability of affordable broadband internet access.

The group, headed by an elected committee and with a membership of 2,100, has operated since the withdrawal of the Esat Fusion's "NoLimits" flat-rate Internet service in 2001.

Speaking to ireland.comthis morning, Ireland Offline chairman Damian Mulley said: "It's sad to see Ireland Offline go, but at the same time, there has been so much progress in the last six to 12 months that it's nice to see that our work and campaigning is paying off."

While "progress is being made" in terms of broadband availability, with 25 per cent of the country still unable to get broadband services, there remain "a few areas that still need to be addressed," he said.

Mr Mulley said one issue of concern is the current high cost of flat-rate Internet dial-up services.

Access to the Internet via a dial-up connection is usually limited to a fixed number of hours per month but, with increasing file sizes and a growing dependency on downloading patches and anti-virus software, many consumers exceed that limit and end up paying very high dial-up fees as a result.

Mr Mulley said this was "quite profitable for telcos at the moment" and while representations have been made to Comreg, they "don't seem to be enthusiastic about it".

As broadband services become more widely available, Mr Mulley said issues such as cost and quality of service will increasingly come to the fore.

The basic nature of broadband packages and the tendency to lock customers into deals where they must avail of telephone services are a cause for concern, he said.

While the National Broadband Scheme "will be an improvement," the Government-sponsored package will lock customers into a five-year deal where download speeds will equate to only 1Mb/sec whereas 100Mb/sec is the norm in Paris and other European cities.