High prices force firms to boycott Eir's rural network
Ireland's main broadband firms are boycotting Eir's private rural fibre broadband network in what may be a further blow to rural internet development.
Companies such as Sky and Vodafone say Eir has set a price that is so high, rivals can't afford to offer rival services to rural residents.
"The current access price of €270 is too expensive," said JD Buckley, managing director of Sky Ireland, Ireland's fourth largest broadband provider and the country's fastest-growing internet service.
"We're really hoping this will be dealt with by ComReg when it finally publishes its market review. But the level Eir is charging is way above others and isn't realistic for us to offer services."
Eir's charge of €270 to rivals to connect to its rural fibre network sits in contrast to €70 for connection to Siro, a similar fibre network in regional towns.
Other major broadband networks echoed Mr Buckley's views.
"Operators aren't going to use it, it just doesn't make sense," said Ronan Lupton, chairman of Alto, an organisation representing independent telecoms operators. "Eir's charge is more than twice than in the UK and a multiple of what Siro charges. If we want to see competition, it's time for ComReg to intervene by getting on with the market review."
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A spokesman for ComReg did not respond to requests for a comment.
A spokesman for Eir said the €270 charge reflected the cost of investment in a broadband market "where no-one else is investing in rural Ireland".
He also said smaller operators use its rural fibre network, which aims to cover 300,000 homes by the end of the year.
It comes after it emerged 94 primary schools across the country have no broadband access. Figures from the Department of Education also show just 192 primary schools have access to ultra-fast broadband.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said all secondary schools have access to 100mbps broadband. However, primary schools do not have the same connectivity.
Internet speeds are capped at 29.9mbps for 2,110 primary schools with just 31pc accessing higher speeds.
Education Minister Richard Bruton said his department spends €15m per year on broadband provision and internet connectivity for the country's schools.
He said: "The policy of the department is to offer the best quality connectivity to all schools in line with the technical solutions available in the market and financial constraints.
"Broadband capacity can vary due to geographical location and infrastructure, thus there is an impact on the service that can be provided."