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Ireland as a Model for the U.S. in Next Generation Broadband

in Broadband Data/Broadband Stimulus/NTIA by

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2009 – Higher-speed broadband connectivity and prompt broadband investments will aid social and economic goals, Ireland’s Department of Communications Minister Eamon Ryan said in a report issued on Monday.

Accord to a report by the Department of Communications, Energy, and Natural Resources, broadband development in Ireland has been very successful so far, mainly due to increased competition between the main telecom and cable operators.

The report touted increases in Irish broadband deployment by virtue of increased competition between the main telecom and cable operators. It also said that take-up of wireless and other third generation broadband services occurred at a faster pace in Ireland than in other countries.

“In the 12 months to March 2009, mobile broadband subscriptions increased by 90.6 percent,” the report said. “Broadband take-up in Ireland is nearly at 1.3 million subscribers, an increase of almost 300,000 since” last July.

The challenging economic climate will, however, “affect the development of the networks necessary to support bandwidth-intense applications and services.” The economic environment could “provide the impetus” to the telecom sector to adopt a creative approach in order to aid economic recovery, the report said.

The government should spur private sector investment by “lowering the cost of building infrastructure,” or by “using regulatory policy to improve financial returns,” the report said.

Competing infrastructures “provide a spur to investment” by the fixed-line incumbents, cable operators, and alternative operators.  One of the key difficulties in deploying broadband in rural areas is the low population density, creating a “digital divide,” the report said.

It also highlighted the need for innovative radio-frequency spectrum policies, and for targeted government action in addition to promoting private sector investment.

Outside experts commenting on the Irish report said that it offered lessons for the United States.

“Government has a significant role to play in providing direct infrastructure subsidies for rural areas, but these actions need to be coordinated to achieve the maximum benefit,” said Information Technology and Information Foundation Research Fellow Richard Bennett. “The Irish stress collaborative investment in these projects, a very intriguing approach.”

“There are significant parallels between the U.S. and Ireland, especially in the rural context, that deserve careful study,” Bennett continued. “They’re working the problem all the way down to home wiring, which shows a level of diligence we haven’t seen in the U.S. as of yet.”

“A strategic national plan to insure broadband access in rural areas is essential for any developed country that wishes to remain competitive in the world marketplace,” sayid Warren E. Clark, president of CCI Marketing, which is working on broadband issues in agriculture.

Looking at the Irish experience in rural markets suggests, for the United States, that “broadband adoption in rural areas has been hindered in part because of the financial recession,” said Clark. Targeting broadband stimulus monies for consumers to use to purchase high-speed internet service of their own choosing would be best, he said.

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