Broadband take-up improves but lags European average

Reports published in recent weeks indicate that broadband take up in Ireland has improved, but that Ireland still lags behind its European and OECD counterparts in terms of overall internet and broadband penetration.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently reported that although Ireland had among the strongest per-capita broadband subscriber growth, with over 5.8 additional subscribers per one hundred population in 2006, it still ranked twenty third of thirty member countries in terms of overall broadband penetration. According to the OECD report, Ireland's broadband penetration is 12.5 per 100 population. This figure compares poorly with the OECD average of 16.9 broadband users per 100 population, and is well below the eight leading OECD countries (Denmark, the Netherlands, Iceland, Korea, Switzerland, Finland, Norway and Sweden) in terms of broadband penetration, who each had at least 26 subscribers per 100 inhabitants.

A second report on internet and broadband use by Irish businesses published by Comreg yesterday stated that 89 per cent of Irish businesses access the Internet. This places Ireland below the EU average of 93 per cent as reported by Eurostat this year, and in seventeenth place out of twenty three countries surveyed for the report. Eurostat had previously placed Ireland at 94 per cent internet penetration, but this was determined by a Central Statistics Office study that excluded companies of less than 10 employees. Since 57 per cent of the Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) sector employs less than 10 people, the previous study excluded a significant number of businesses.

Comreg's report also stated that of the 89 per cent of businesses that access the internet, 69 per cent do so using a broadband connection - up from 60 per cent at the outset of the survey.  While this marks an increase in business broadband penetration, it nonetheless means that just over 60 per cent of Irish businesses are broadband-enabled.

Broadband unavailablility was cited by 47 per cent of businesses as the reason for not using the technology, though some of the businesses had not attempted to access broadband. Broadband rollout was the focus of a further report by the Joint Commission for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources last month which noted the ‘critical importance that broadband was likely to have in ensuring balanced regional development, in providing communications resources for socially disadvantaged groups in our society and in limiting the effect of geographic isolation'.  The report stated that a key project undertaken to date (MAN) had ‘not succeeded in delivering what the Irish public has demanded - ubiquitous, low cost broadband' and that the second major project, the Group Broadband Scheme/Nationwide Broadband Scheme, ‘is taking too long to deliver broadband connectivity to communities'.

The report said that while ‘sixty four million people now have broadband access across the 25 countries of the EU… Ireland remains near the bottom of the pile in terms of penetration'.