WHENEVER I COMPLAIN about something pertaining to Ireland's infrastructure, three things happen to me. First, one of my 342 Irish subscribers lets me know by direct phone call that I damage Ireland's competitiveness on the world stage when I demean conditions in Ireland. Second, at least three anonymous people fire salvoes at me, reminding me I am a guest in Ireland and that I should just go back to the States. Third, no one tries to refute the facts that instigated the blog post about failing infrastructure. I expect these things after tonight's reflection on an Irish prime time television programme about the dire state of internet connectivity in Ireland. Every technologist living and working in Ireland knows the kind of service they need to play on a world stage. In my case, I need dependable service of at least one megabit per second upstream to the internet (like I get at left) and I cannot survive on a downstream flow of less than three megabits per second. It is unusual that I get those broadband speeds in Ireland unless I serve myself on the back of the Higher Education Authority's connection. But using that connectivity on my laptop means accepting restrictions to tinyurl sites and it means severe constraints when on streaming services like those powered by a Flash Communications Server. So most of the time, I find wifi nodes where I perch and work. Because of Ireland's pitiful broadband infrastructure, my internet browsing speeds rarely permit 1 Mbps upstream which means all I can offer to a connected education community is a frozen face on-screen. And because overall downloads are slower than what I can get in a New York hotel room or on a train platform in Copenhagen, I have to work longer every day to consume information I need to know. And what's the Irish government think?
The Irish government, advised by an International Advisory Forum on Next Generation Broadband Networks, thinks it best to put the best foot forward. So that means juggling with some numbers to show that more people are connected at broadband speeds than ever before. That's true. It's also true that the concept of broadband has changed. Broadband is no longer simply defined in the modern workplace as an always-on access to the internet. I had that kind of broadband in 1995 through ISDN service when working in Dublin. Broadband in the 21st century should be defined as the provision of always-on symmetrical service of 20 megabits per second to the internet. There is no way the Irish government will subscribe to this definition of terms. But that's the reality of life in the connected world--speed is essential when you want your desk to connect you to money-making processes. Give hospital consultants that speed and you can exchange ultrasounds across desktops as they are being scanned. Give architects that speed and CAD drawings get simultaneous review by developers, planners and politicians. Give teachers that speed and they can send live images and conversations back to the International Space Station. I think well-paid government advisors should examine these scenarios and either invalidate them or make them part of the service provision package outlined for 21st century Ireland. But I honestly don't expect to see that kind of internet access in my Irish home before I die. And I would never imagine an Irish politician or an Irish civil servant would aspire to those speeds, even though they are charged with shepherding quality internet access to those who need it to compete in the knowledge economy.
Now, over to my email where I know someone is railing against my unwelcome attack on Irish infrastructure.
Damien Mulley on one party's broadband manifesto. And on Irish government posturing about broadband. Radio Clip: Damien Mulley on Morning Ireland [1.3 MB 96 kbps MP3 file]
Bernie Commins -- "Broadband forum established but South Tipp service not satisfactory" in South Tipp Today, 13 February 2008. In the same freesheet, local councillor Michael Browne complains about the underground broadband ducting collapsing in main thoroughfares running near my home in Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland.
Screenshots of speedtests of my laptop while working.