Listening to Ian Dempsey's Breakfast Show on Today FM a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised to hear that Broadband internet has become a bit of a talking point among the Irish, despite the fact that hardly anybody in the country seems to be able to get the damn thing. Those good people at Eircom are offering a 2Mb per second service for €54.99 per month, a steep enough price for a service that sounds suspiciously slow. A quick check with my French ISP confirms that yes, 2Mb p/s is awfully slow. My €29.99 per month gets me access to a 28Mb p/s ADSL service as well as about 90 TV channels (admittedly almost all of them crap) and unlimited free calls to landlines in 28 countries. That puts Eircom and its Irish rivals in the shade a bit but, to be fair, there are few countries in the world with broadband capabilities as developed as France's are, and their telecommunications infrastructure has been like that since long before the Internet. Bahnhof, the Swedish ISP claims to be able to supply service up to 100 Mb p/s though that may be restricted to business clients, while Italy's serena.com's 2Mb p/s is similar to Eircom's though, at €24.99 per month, less than half the price.
Viewed from over here, this is further vindication for not living in Ireland any more. If something as basic as Internet access is so expensive and shoddy, what claim can Europe's 'most dynamic economy' have to being worthy of a 21st-century country? That a country that has made much of its money out of hi-tech industry should be struggling with antediluvian technology suggests that the money is not being saved for a rainy day. Investment is something that the Irish have more of a problem with than spending cash readily. Apart from the whines of Irish people and the brief success of Eddie Hobbs' 'Rip-off Republic' last year, the Irish are quite happy to be had over a barrel when it comes to parting with their cash for utter shite. The Irish like to moan about the price of drink in Dublin and elsewhere but nobody is forcing them to spend €100 or more on a Saturday night out. When it comes to consumerism we have a fatalistically masochistic attitude; secretly we like the pain. And, it must be pointed out that this is a time when we are paying tax at lower rates than ever, and very few infrastructural improvements worth talking about have been effected. God knows what the attitude will be like among the Plain People of Ireland when money needs to be found for these improvements when the economy slows down. There'll be no more running back to Brussels for help and the Irish will be left with their expensive computers that will be no damn use on antiquated telephone lines.