The European Commission has approved plans by the Irish government to make available EUR170 billion (USD202.7 billion) for improving broadband availability. The Commission recognises that Ireland is struggling to compete with other, older EU member states in delivering broadband access and says its plan to boost access to more than 120 towns poses no threat to competition within the EU. To date the government has spent EUR80 million activating 27 of the 120 planned metropolitan area networks (MANs) in a project that is 50:50 funded by it and the EU. But eircom could challenge the Commission’s decision arguing that it makes no sense to spend public money to introduce services that it is already providing. Although it is currently assessing its position, eircom’s commercial director David McRedmond said ‘We provide services in 118 out of the 120, and the two locations of Clifden Co Galway and Ringaskiddy in Co Cork are already under construction’. Meanwhile, Babcock & Brown, the Australian group which may table a takeover bid for eircom, has increased its stake in the incumbent to 26.1%, coming closer to the 29.9% mark which would trigger a bid for the firm.
In a separate development, Irish broadband provider Smart Telecom says it will start offering a 6Mbps service to residential customers priced from around EUR65 a month. It will also bring in 5Mbps and 4Mbps options for EUR55 and EUR45 a month respectively.