Tens of thousands of consumers could be left in the lurch without their existing internet services during the rollout of the National Broadband Plan, the Government has been warned.
Nova Broadband chief executive and founder Dave McDonald said while he welcomed the plan which aims to deliver high-speed broadband to 900,000 homes and business, it could spell trouble for consumers in the short-term.
As the plan rolls out and eats into wireless internet providers’ customer bases, many could go out of business, leaving customers in other parts of the country stranded without the service they currently utilise.
“I think that the way this project is being rolled out is going to result in large sections of the rural population losing what internet connection they currently have while it’s being rolled out.
“My reasoning behind that… is that you’ve got about 86 wireless ISPs [internet service providers] currently providing service to about 100,000 homes and businesses nationwide and most of those are in the NBP intervention area.
“The initial rollout is going to take a percentage of their customers and while the NBP then is struggling to reach the 100% coverage, I think the providers are going to lose sections of their customer base and if someone loses 10% or 20% of their customer base their profitability will come into question. I think people will go to the wall in a phased situation like that.”
The Government should commence a new round of consultation with the providers to discuss “methods of onboarding these vulnerable customers to the new network”.
Mr McDonald said the NBP wouldn’t unduly affect his business as the Cork-based company had diversified into new markets in the past number of years.
It is inevitable, if unfortunate, that wireless providers will go out of business as fibre broadband takes over, he added.
“Progress is inevitable and progress is good but it just needs to be managed; the transition from the old to the new needs to be managed in a responsible way so that people aren’t left without connectivity.
“I’m going to say quite clearly that wireless is not the technology for the NBP. Some wireless operators are saying it could be done with wireless, I don’t think it could. I’ll say that straight out. I think fibre’s definitely the way to go for that.
“I think [wireless] will be used for niches of delivering connectivity to pockets and certain areas but I don’t think it’s an answer for ubiquitous broadband. Most of the other wireless operators would say the opposite but I don’t think it’s true.”
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