Modern businesses become more reliant upon the internet each day. Many conduct sales and customer service through their websites, or rely on internet marketing in order to grow and thrive. Internet business already accounts for 6 percent of Ireland’s GDP, and the share is growing every year. Irish consumers are also spending €850,000 per hour each day.
It’s already clear that economic growth and innovation is going to remain inextricably linked to the internet for many years to come. Remaining competitive in a diverse digital economy will only become more challenging in the future, and will rely largely on having access to the latest technology. One crucial aspect of that technology is the internet infrastructure that’s deployed to support growing demand and higher bandwidth applications.
The Access Race Is On
The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment has already embarked on a National Broadband Plan to ensure that homes and businesses across Ireland will have access to broadband internet services. The broad aim of the plan is to provide internet services to all homes and businesses, regardless of their location, with a minimum of 30Mbps download speed. This plan will create a large step up in some areas, where access had been limited to no more than 2Mbps previously.
The trouble is that by the time the project is complete, the targets may already be out of date. Many localities around the world are already deploying fibre-optic based systems that operate at a minimum of 100Mbps, with some reaching a blazingly fast 1Gbps download speed. In Ireland, however, a lack of willing private investors in areas that have few subscribers has hampered deployment and forced direct state intervention to ensure full coverage.
A Public-Private Partnership
It is possible for a government to operate a fibre-optic high-speed internet network without relying on private industry to build it. For instance, a clever and ambitious approach was taken in Australia with the development of the National Broadband Network (NBN). The government set up a state-owned corporation that has set about deploying an advanced high-speed data network nationwide.
The NBN will be the major internet backbone in Australia, and service to homes and businesses is already being provided by the network via resellers. The resellers provide NBN plans to consumers, and compete with each other based upon price and customer service. By providing a universal infrastructure, the NBN has cut costs and extended access to places that would likely have been left out of privately-financed efforts.
There’s No Time To Waste
Efforts to improve internet access in Ireland are already bearing fruit. They’re important steps, to be sure, but there’s more work to be done to stay on par with the latest available technology. In order to keep internet related businesses growing, the maximum effort must be made to increase the pace of internet service deployments and upgrades. The global economy demands it, and the spoils of innovation will go only to the most forward-thinking regions. With the pace of development in the field, there isn’t a moment to spare.