Wednesday 28 September 2016

Eir 'receives letters every day' from rural Ireland, pleading for better internet access

Published 05/06/2016 | 02:30

Eir chief executive Richard Moat
Eir chief executive Richard Moat

Management at the State's biggest telecoms company is receiving letters every day from people living in rural Ireland, seeking improved internet access.

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Chief executive Richard Moat and Carolan Lennon, head of its wholesale division, receive regular communication from rural households frustrated by poor connectivity.

"I get letters from people living in rural areas almost every day now, asking us to get them connected to fibre broadband. These are really informed people with a sophisticated understanding of how it works, who are hugely frustrated by the lack of connectivity.

"The letters are very compelling," Lennon told the Sunday Independent.

The Department of Communications recently announced delays to the National Broadband Plan.

The scheme will provide state-subsidised high-speed broadband to hundreds of thousands of homes in rural Ireland. Five bidders are vying for contracts, with Eir, ESB/Vodafone venture Siro, Sean Bolger's Imagine and eNet among them.

The scheme covers 750,000 homes but controversially, Eir intends to privately connect 300,000 of those in the next two years. Its critics say this makes the project less attractive to others.

Lennon said a smaller pool of 450,000 homes still represents a highly ambitious task, with many of them in very difficult-to-reach locations.

Eir is "very optimistic" that the size of the scheme will be reduced to reflect its intentions.

The National Broadband Plan would otherwise be unlikely to pass EU "state aid" rules, Lennon said, which prohibit state interference when there is a commercial alternative.

A dispute between Eir and the ESB is also emerging in relation to the National Broadband Plan.

Eir may seek access to ESB infrastructure to deliver broadband in some particularly remote areas where it has no existing infrastructure.

ESB is obliged to do this under EU law, Eir maintains. But it says it has received no response to repeated requests for information from the ESB.

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