Wednesday 1 September 2010

Dublin council may provide broadband via city's sewers

PLANS TO use Dublin’s sewers to provide high-speed broadband internet access to businesses and homes across the city are being advanced by Dublin City Council.

The council is in talks with two companies regarding the feasibility of running “rat resistant” fibre optic cables through the sewerage system to transform the speed, accessibility and cost of broadband in the city.

The sewer line system could provide broadband speeds of 100 megabits per second, five times faster that the most high spec broadband packages available on the market.

This super-fast broadband would allow an entire music album to be downloaded from sites such as iTunes in under 10 seconds and would make high-definition, full-length feature films readily accessible for download in less than 15 minutes.

The availability of super-fast broadband would also make Dublin a far more attractive city for business investment, Dublin city councillor Kevin Humphreys (Labour) said.

“From a competitiveness point of view, the city really needs to up its game where broadband is concerned. Using the sewers would be a cost effective way of delivering much faster broadband speeds.”

The use of up to 2,500km of sewerage pipes to deliver broadband would also help eliminate inequalities in broadband provision, Mr Humphreys said.

“There is a real gap across the city with less affluent areas having less access to broadband. Using the sewerage system would provide much better equality of access, and the council could ensure that.”

From the council’s perspective, using the city’s sewers to deliver broadband would mean that it would not be necessary to dig up roads.

“The fact that you can feed the lines into existing sewers means you don’t have to dig up footpaths and roads which would mean huge savings in terms of disruption as well as money,” the council’s executive manager Declan Wallace said.¨ The laying of the cables would involve no cost to the council, Mr Wallace said, and while potential commercial benefits to the council would form part of eventual tender negotiations, it is likely there would be financial gain to the council for making their pipe space available.

“There may be a financial gain for the council, but the main gain would be for the city in terms of increased broadband speed and accessibility.”

The council would also ensure that the use of the sewers would not lead to the creation of a monopoly for a company, Mr Wallace said.

“We will work this out in such a way as to ensure that there will be competition in the market.”

Sewer-based broadband services have already been established in France and some small-scale systems have been piloted in Britain.

Plans to make Bournemouth Britain’s first “fibre town” collapsed earlier this month due to contractual disputes between the local water company and the firm contracted to install the fibre optic lines.

Irish Times

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