In a bid to ensure that Ireland maintains its position as one of the world’s most technologically advanced nations, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, has recently proposed a new broadband plan for Ireland that would make instant downloads of large files such as HD movies and videos as a standard minimum, rather than an expensive perk. According to his plan, half the population, which live mostly in the urban and suburban areas, should get speeds of 70Mbps to 100Mbps, while another 20% of the country should get at least 40Mbps. He also declared in his proposal that there be a “minimum of 30Mbps for every remaining home and business in the country—no matter how rural or remote.”
Ireland’s proposed measure is part of the European Union’s Digital Agenda for Europe, which requires member nations to create and enact national broadband plans by the end of the year to raise the minimum speed level to 30Mbps for all EU citizens by 2020. To comply with the EU’s Digital Agenda, member countries must also bring speeds of 100Mbps to half of the EU’s households by 2020. In response to EU standards, Finland has enacted its plan to bring the national minimum speed to 1Mbps in 2010, which will then be raised to a minimum of 100Mbps for all Finnish citizens by 2015.
With the exception of Google Fiber and to a lesser extent, Verizon FiOs, the United States is clearly behind the times when it comes to broadband internet policy. The National Broadband Plan of 2010 sets the goal of minimum speed at a comparatively glacial 4Mbps for all Americans. In contrast to the EU’s Digital Agenda, the National Broadband Plan is limited in scope and ambition and makes no plans for democratizing true broadband speed for all Americans.
Ireland’s government has stated its willingness to put up €175 million ($219 million) to create and expand a true broadband network to rural areas. That way, anyone can buy access to high speed broadband internet, no matter what part of the country they live in.
I admire Ireland’s bold plan for broadband access, and I’m disappointed that America’s leaders aren’t willing to do more to democratize true broadband internet access. In many parts of the country, only dial up is available—which I think is an embarrassment considering our status in the world as one of the leading technological giants. And the fact that the minimum standard to qualify as broadband is set at only 4 Mbps! What are they thinking? At that speed, the paint will finish drying before your video finishes buffering.
A lot can happen in a year or so. Time Warner Cable has already responded to Google Fiber by beginning the installation of a true fiber network into New York City’s business and financial districts. As of this writing, Verizon is considering expanding its fiber network to more areas. Hopefully, this will shock the other telecom providers into action—so every American can get access to the true high speed internet they want and need, no matter what part of the country they live in.