Broadband firm challenges decision over next-generation standards

Lighthouse Networks claims decision means it will have to compete with State-backed broadband provider

Lighthouse Networks claims its technology is 30 per cent more spectrally efficient than the current best licensed wireless access services. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Lighthouse Networks claims its technology is 30 per cent more spectrally efficient than the current best licensed wireless access services. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

 

A broadband provider in the west of Ireland has brought a High Court challenge to a decision that its network does not meet next-generation standards under the National Broadband Plan.

Lighthouse Networks, trading as Lightnet, claims the decision by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment means its functional area will not be excluded from the national plan and it will then have to compete with the State-subsidised service.

Lighthouse says it provides broadband to more than 6,000 premises in Galway, east Offaly, Clare and up to the border of Roscommon. It claims its technology is 30 per cent more spectrally efficient than the current best licensed wireless access services and that it has spent €5 million building up that technology over the past 14 years.

On Monday, Mr Justice Charles Meenan granted permission to bring judicial review proceedings against the Minister following a one-side only represented application on behalf of the company.

Undercut

In the case, which returns to court in April, Lighthouse wants an order quashing the Minister’s decision last November that its operation does not meet the essential characteristics of the next-generation access network.

In the absence of that decision, Lighthouse says its area would have been excluded from the national €2.7 billion broadband programme area and the company would not have to compete with a State-backed broadband provider which could undercut its prices, it is claimed.

It claims the Minister’s decision does not comply with criteria set down in a report prepared for the Government by PwC and is invalid and also infringes the plaintiff’s legitimate expectation.

Alternatively, it alleges an underlying bias by the Minister against the technology used by Lighthouse.

Lighthouse director Des Chambers, who is also a lecturer in computer science in University College Galway, said in an affidavit the company had engaged with the department and its advisers throughout the assessment process in the expectation assessment criteria would be applied reasonably and fairly and in line with practice in other EU jurisdictions.

It also relied on the department’s assurance its technical experts would attend an on-site meeting to deal with detailed matters, he said.

“Neither of these expectations were met,” he said. The impact of this has been that the company has not further invested or expanded its network despite having grown rapidly and its business is now flat lined, Mr Chambers said.