AT THE TOP of the "comms" section of the Digital Ireland supplement to the Irish Independent today is a graciously-placed press release from the Irish Minister for Communications. The minister's staff have engaged in a policy of public distortion in the field of broadband coverage in Ireland. "According to the latest quarterly report from ComReg, if you include mobile broadband, the total number of broadband subscribers at the end of June in the Republic of Ireland stood at 1.05 million people. Excluding mobile broadband, the total was 832,590 subscribers."
Hailing 1m broadband connections while rolling in mobile broadband is disingenuous. The Indo's headline writer contributes to the falsehood by underscoring the one million mark. This is misleading and reduces otherwise astute technology coverage to questions as to its credibility.
Counting my three O2 mobile broadband subscriptions as part of a 1m-strong high-speed community is playing with numbers. I am typing this blog post with a 3G O2 SIM connected to a Typepad server in California while aboard Irish Rail, listening to Blip.fm on my earbuds through a second 3G SIM. And the Indo story counts me twice. As most Irish tech journos know, getting a strong 3G signal with a mobile broadband dongle is highly location-specific. In my case, I have to dangle my dongle from a third story window, pointing it towards a pub that has a 3G array on its gables. This is not the kind of picture any fact-checker would want to run alongside the Communications Minister's happy news.
Don't get me wrong--Irish broadband connectivity is better than ever. But it's not worth debasing reality by double-counting suspect mobile connectivity. Nor is it healthy for the fourth estate to blithely republish tax-funded PR exercises.
I know someone will feel compelled to send me a warning about this blog post. If that happens, I'm going up a level, to national radio, with these talking point and I will name those who disagree with my perspective. Those powering Ireland's knowledge economy deserve better than being over-counted when placed on creatively drawn maps of incomplete broadband coverage.
John Kennedy -- "Ireland hits one million broadband user milestone" in the Irish Independent, 25 September 2008.
Sent mail2blog using O2 Ireland 3G services on the floor of the Montrose Hotel, Dublin.