This is the first article I ever sold. It appeared in the Irish Examiner on 5 July 2001. A follow-up article also appeared in the Examiner the following day.
Representatives of consumer group IrelandOffline will today meet with Telecoms Regulator Etáin Doyle to press their case for affordable internet access in Ireland.
Esat Fusion has been offering unmetered access to the internet, where instead of paying for phone calls by the minute surfers could stay online for as long as they liked for a fixed monthly fee.
But on April 26 the company sent out a letter to about 2000 customers telling them they were “using the service excessively”. The decision signalled the end of unmetered internet access for home users in Ireland.
Web surfers set up IrelandOffline to campaign for unmetered access and high-speed access, which is up to ten times faster than the speed of a typical modem over a normal telephone line.
The group draws inspiration from the Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT), a British-based group whose campaign was so successful it disbanded, having achieved its aims in full.
The delays in deregulating the Irish internet market are frustrating, according to director of marketing with Esat Fusion Andre Conlan-Trent.
“Esat has always pushed the boundaries for internet access in Ireland,” he said. “We were the first to introduce free internet access through oceanfree.net, and the first to introduce a flat-rate (unmetered) internet access product.”
Mr Conlan-Trant said Eircom must offer an affordable wholesale package to its competitors in order to make unmetered internet access feasible.
The Office of the Director of Telecommunications Regulation has set up numbers for unmetered access, but they still have to negotiate an acceptable charge with Eircom.
“Cheap access is important to me,” Martin Harran, a business consultant and co-founder of IrelandOffline said. “The internet is important for my work, using e-mail and preparing business plans for clients. There is a lot of market research information on the net. I’d been watching the British campaign last year, and I thought this was a chance of doing something.”
“I can’t see myself sitting at home in Castlefinn anytime soon with broadband access, but unmetered access should be possible throughout the country.”