By Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com
January 23, 2009 - The government of Ireland on Thursday announced a "National Broadband Scheme" to deliver broadband throughout the island nation, investing €223 million (U.S. $362 million) on high-speed internet infrastructure.
Ireland currently has over 1.2 million subscribers to broadband, according to the government of Ireland, which provides a detailed map of broadband availability by location, by company and by speed.
The National Broadband Scheme will provide broadband to the remaining 10% of Ireland's population -- or approximately 33% of the area of the country. (See Ireland's map.)
Under the plan, Ireland aims to have 100% coverage by September 2010, with half of the area under the scheme will be covered by the end of 2009.
The Irish government's announcement comes at a time when the United States Congress is considering a potential U.S. $6 billion investment in broadband infrastructure as part of the stimulus package. See BroadbandCensus.com's Broadband Wiki for coverage.
With a population of 4.2 million, the $362 million Irish investment amounts to a per capita investment in broadband of $87 per Irish citizen. If the $6 billion figure passed by the House Appropriations Committee continues, the proposed investment would amount to a per capita investment in broadband of $20 per United States citizen.
In other words, the proposed $6 billion investment is less than four times smaller, on a per-capita basis, than the Irish investment announced on Thursday.
According to the Irish government, the $362 million will come from a combination of Exchequer funds, EU co-financing and from the private sector. It is expected to create 170 direct jobs.
Hundreds more will be protected and created as the availability of broadband increases the investment and enterprise in the targeted areas, said the Irish government.
Announcing the scheme, Communications Minister Eamon Ryan said, “For too long, rural Ireland has been without this essential service.Today’s announcement is a boost for the rural economy. Now businesses throughout the country can have ready access to the national and international markets. Employment will be created and sustained. Quality of life will improve for rural residents and communities will be strengthened."
Following the conclusion of a competitive tendering process, the $362 million contract was awarded to the company named ‘3,’ a Hutchinson Whampoa company. Robert Finnegan, CEO of 3, commented: "3 is delighted to have won the NBS tender - it's great news for 3 and for rural Ireland. We'll be rolling out our first class broadband network bringing internet services to thousands of homes and businesses across the country."
‘3’ will extend its network to provide mobile wireless broadband services into the NBS area. Initially, the service will have a minimum download speed of 1.2 Megabits per second (Mbps). At least two upgrades of speeds are planned during the lifetime of the contract. These product upgrades will be carried out at no cost to the customer, said the government.
"Over five years we'll be investing 223 million euros and creating around 170 new jobs giving Ireland's economy a welcome boost," Finnegan continued. "There has never been a more important time for people to get connected as Ireland strives to sharpen its competitiveness. 3 has already played an important part in bringing Ireland up to speed in the broadband league tables and we look forward to further strengthening 3's market leading position with the most innovative and services and best value price plans available."
At the "Broadband Census for America Conference" on September 26, 2008 (sponsored by BroadbandCensus.com, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Virginia Tech), Eamonn Confrey, First Secretary for Information and Communications Policy at the Embassy of Ireland, presented a keynote speech on his nation's efforts to collect data on broadband service in Ireland through a comprehensive web site with availability, pricing and speed data about carriers.