Data released by the European Commission today shows that Europe’s 400 million Internet users face a geographic lottery regarding the price, speed, and range of choice of broadband –showing that a single market for broadband services in Europe is still a distant ideal. This has to change, according to European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes, who has said that there “is no good reason why one person should pay over 4 times more than another in Europe for the same broadband.”
The study found that Irish users are paying up to 3 times more for their broadband services than consumers in other European countries, with prices here the third highest in Europe. Cyprus was the most expensive for broadband with Spain taking the 2nd place.
Given these figures, it is unsurprising that Irish people are among the most likely to limit internet use and international calls on their phones because of cost fears; Irish people were found to be the most reluctant in Europe to phone someone in another country because of the cost! However, the study did find that almost half of Irish consumers have now embraced the idea of using an IP telecoms provider such as Blueface to make cheaper calls.
Despite higher than average prices for Irish broadband, the study found that two-thirds of people do not know what speed internet they signed up for and if they do know, they are likely to get just 75% of the speed advertised to them with their broadband package anyway. According to Kroes, “while underlying networks are improving, the gap between advertised and actual speeds is as wide as in 2012.”
In addition, 40% of consumers in Ireland reported difficulties accessing online content due to slow speeds or downloading capacity, while 18pc had been hit with extra charges for downloading too much data, even though most people weren’t aware this could happen.
While successive waves of telecoms sector reform by the European Union have helped transform the way telecoms services are delivered in the EU, the sector still operates largely on the basis of 28 national markets. Both customers and operators face differing prices and rules.
The findings above show a clear need to give broadband users stronger rights and the European Parliament next week will vote on the Commission’s plans for a #ConnectedContinent which proposes measures to ensure consumers have accurate information, clear contracts, reliable speeds and greater rights to switch provider, or end a contract if they don’t get the speed promised. The #ConnectedContinent will also help to overcome market fragmentation and price differences by allowing efficient operators to sell their services to consumers in other countries.
Improvements such as these will enhance competition and increase choice for users; which will hopefully ensure better value and higher quality services across all EU member states. In Blueface, we believe that access to high quality broadband infrastructure and services at affordable prices is vital for businesses and consumers alike. We need to rapidly address our approach in Ireland in order to ensure our businesses can effectively and efficiently compete on a pan-European basis. This report illuminates the challenges facing Irish customers of broadband services and we welcome the debate on the issue in order to challenge operators to rebalance their approach to pricing and quality in the months and years ahead.