| Dublin from Space Photo credit: NASA |
IBEC affiliated group, Telecommunications and Internet Federation (TIF) today welcomed the call for wider availability and investment in broadband, but said it did not see a subsidised citywide WiFi network as a practical means of addressing the digital divide. It could, in fact, damage the broadband market at a point where we see the highest ever rate of broadband take-up in Ireland.
TIF is responding to the report that the Dublin City Council will investigate the feasibility of providing a free wireless web service in Dublin City.
According to TIF Director, Tommy McCabe: "The set-up costs for the proposed WiFi project have been estimated at €10-20 million, but the running costs of maintenance and management cannot be resolved by a ‘one-off’ payment.
This scheme will consume substantial public funds during its lifespan."
He noted serious concerns not only regarding cost, but also on its effect on employment and the broadband market in Ireland, "In effect Dublin City Council would be diverting public funds to put existing WiFi operators out of business, causing redundancies, and it could have an overall negative impact on the broadband market through what boils down to below cost selling."
He went on to point out that industry supported Government investment in telecoms infrastructure, but that funding should be only for areas that are unable to receive broadband: "Public funding should be put to use where there is greatest need – Dublin has the highest level of broadband availability in Ireland. Tackling the digital divide would be better achieved through methods such as the proposed ‘National Broadband Scheme’, and in consultation with industry".
McCabe finally noted some practical concerns: "Using this unlicensed spectrum for a city-wide network could interfere with existing wireless networks all across Dublin, and the potential network congestion of having so many connections could render the service unusable for many".
"TIF urges the Council to meet with industry to discuss their proposals and find a sustainable way forward," he added.