By Maria PEPPER
Wednesday May 13 2009
WEXFORD'S €4 million broadband connection was a disgraceful waste of money, a senior Council boss admitted this week.
Director of Services Adrian Doyle saw red at a Borough Council meeting on Monday night when told that only 14 business were connected to the network three years after it was provided.
Rounding on Niall Beirne of E/ Net, the network management company, he said :' The capital cost standing us at the moment is ¤400,00 per connection. You can't say that's value for money'.
'Get real. The country is nearly broke and you're talking about value for money at ¤ 400,000 a connection,' he added.
The E/Net representative was invited to address the meeting following recent complaints from Cllr. George Lawlor and other councillors about the ' exhorbitant' cost of network connections for businesses.
A verbal row ensued after Mr. Beirne claimed that it was not meant to be 'broadband for all' but was designed for larger corporate enterprises and multinationals. Mr. Doyle begged to differ. 'I was responsible for broadband in Wexford. That was not the position. It was put in for small and medium enterprises as well as larger ones'.
The Director of Services said the Council did a huge job of promoting the network and the fact that only 14 customers were connected, at least three of which are State users - the County Hall, the Fire Station and the Library-was a big disappointment.
'It's a national disgrace,' he said, adding that he had been having an argument with E/Net about pricing for the past three years and he still didn't understand it.
Mr. Beirne explained to members that E/Net does not retail any service to customers but acts as a wholesaler, selling the network to the likes of BT and Smart. E/Net had no control over the end price.
In response to questioning, he said the typical cost of a connection now, depending on the distance a premises is away from cable and including digging work, is ¤ 7,500.
Cllr. Lawlor who was quoted ¤ 60,000 for his printing business three years ago compared this price with broadband connection costs in the U.K. where Virgin were offering state-of-the art connections for substantially less.
In England, you could get a 50 megabyte connection for a £50 connection fee and an annual network charge of £610.
'When is this white elephant going to become relevant to the businesses of Wexford,' he asked.
Mr. Beirne told the meeting that additional business customers including Coca Cola were expected down the line.
And E/ Net was looking at extending MANS and bringing it closer to businesses, thereby hopefully reducing the cost.
Cllr. Paddy Nolan described the overall cost as 'daylight robbery' while Cllr. Anthony Kelly said 'it's a joke'.
'We were duped into believing that Wexford was going to be transformed by this new technology. We were lied to', said Cllr. Kelly.
Cllr. Padge Reck said he was trying to find out if it was E/Net that is 'ripping us off ' or the operators. 'Is it a cosy cartel?'
Mr. Beirne denied that this was the case. He said he had come to the meeting in a 'spirit of goodwill and co-operation' to answer questions openly.
'While it is your asset, we are managing it and we want to be part of any solutions', he said.
- Maria PEPPER