The Irish Independent
Eddie Lennon, May 12th, 2005
Consumer groups query why one person in a building can have broadband while another can’t.
A SPECTRUM of consumer bodies say they are receiving complaints from individuals demanding to know why Eircom can’t provide them with broadband internet service when their immediate neighbours have it.
Dermott Jewell, chief executive of the Consumers Association of Ireland, said: “Not a week goes by without two or three people contacting the Consumers Association to ask why they can’t get broadband from Eircom, while their friends who live in the same area can.”
Telecoms regulator ComReg and the Direct of Consumer Affairs also have received complaints about problems signing up for Eircom broadband, while Ireland Offline, a campaign group for better internet access here, reports “huge” consumer frustration.
The Consumer Association said it has not received similar complaints about any broadband provider other than Eircom, on whose lines most other operators’ broadband service is based.
“One of our members has Eircom broadband but his next-door neighbour can’t get it,” Mr Jewell said. “Eircom told the neighbour they would investigate the matter, but more than a week later he had no explanation.”
This is “just one small example”, he said. “It defies the whole logic of trying to get a fast internet connection if the provider can’t respond fast enough.”
Eircom’s “hard sell and lovely marketing spin” around broadband is merely adding to the frustration, Mr Jewell said.
Telecoms regulator ComReg said it too had received complaints about problems signing up for Eircom broadband.
Director of Consumer Affairs Carmel Foley echoed this: “The fact Eircom is advertising its high-speed products so aggressively seems ironic.” Her office has received about 10 complaints from people whose phone lines Eircom deemed ineligible for broadband.
Diarmuid MacShane, who runs consumer information website valueireland.com, said he found trying to sign up to Eircom broadband “an absolute nightmare. I was told they needed to test my line from a local exchange. But since the exchange was unmanned, they could not send somebody there till there was a problem.
“After three weeks, nothing had happened. When I contacted Eircom they told me the test had been ‘inconclusive’, which meant I would probably not be able to get broadband, although my neighbour upstairs could.”
Mr MacShane got no satisfaction by phone. He was “bounced around” in vain before going to Eircom’s official complaints page on the internet. “Within two days I was told my phone line was broadband-enabled – after about a month trying to get the information,” he said.
John Timmons, committee member of Ireland Offline, said: “The general Eircom answer is ‘we’re sorry, it failed and that’s all we can do’.”
The level of frustration among consumers is “huge”, he said. “In an area with 20 houses, there could be eight or nine failing to get broadband. If your next-door-neighbour can get broadband and you can’t, it’s annoying, especially if you’re spending more money on a regular internet connection than you would with broadband.”
He added that despite assurances from Eircom to investigate, he saw no evidence of any action.
“In this day and age, I would have thought it was a relatively straightforward operation to test a line and send an engineer out. A delay of days would be understandable; but it is often a matter of several weeks.”
Ian Campbell, editor of Silicon Republic, Ireland’s technology news service, said: “Most people who can’t get broadband are told by Eircom that it’s because there’s a fault on their (phone) line. What the nature of those faults is and when will Eircom set about solving them is the million dollar question. A lot more people should be broadband-enabled.”
An Eircom spokesperson said some phone lines might not be suitable due to “exchange or line issues.
“We advise the customer as soon as we have determined the suitability of the line.”
He added: “We are continuously upgrading and improving the quality of our network so it is possible that lines which may have been deemed unsuitable, in time will be capable of supporting broadband.”
A comprehensive list of Ireland’s broadband providers is available at www.broadband.gov.ie.
Note from Value Ireland – When reviewing the above mentioned site regarding broadband providers, please be aware that most providers will only provide broadband to business customers. Be very careful when reviewing offerings to ensure that residential customers would be supplied.