Government gets to look silly on mobile phone registration.

Last January, the Department of Communications told me that it had done an extensive evaluation and decided that making people register their prepay mobile phones was a bad idea. Now the government (not so much the Department of Communications but Pat Carey, a junior minister with responsibility for drugs announced that this was ready to go ahead, in accordance with the program for government.
Now, the Department of Communications is going to investigate this again:

Minister Ryan will be discussing the question of mobile phone registration with Minister of State Carey in the coming weeks. Both Departments are conscious of the complex legal, technical and data-protection issues that surround this commitment in the Programme for Government.

The Department of Communications, in conjunction with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs will be reviewing the situation, seeking advice from the Attorney General and working to resolve them insofar as practicable.

The Government is looking at all options that can assist in the fight against illicit drugs.”

In other words, the Department is going to evaluate this idea again and then decide once again not to do it. I don’t know why these people bother making decisions at all if they are going to instantly forget about why they made them.

I wonder why the government put this policy in the program for government. It was just looking for trouble.

VoteTube: And the Winners are…

The winners of the VoteTube contest have been announced. VoteTube, set up by Simon McGarr and I (although Simon did most of the work) brought together videos from all political hues for the Irish general election. Congratulations to everyone who sent in an entry.

Really what we want to do now though, is to get people at the ‘grass roots’ to make videos about stuff that matters to them. Any ideas on how to do this would be great.

Comreg has to make the right choice for the future of broadband

According to this story, Irish incumbent telco eircom will obliged by the telecomms regulator Comreg to continue LLU network rollout, in spite of the fact that next-generation networks, where every cabinet will be individually enabled with faster 25 or 50 Mbit broadband. Now this is ridiculous.

LLU, the arrangement whereby competitors are allowed put equipment into eircom exchanges and connect directly to the customer’s line, is dead. There is no point in anybody investing any more money in unbundling local exchanges if a fiber-to-the-cabinet network is to be built. It will simply be impossible for an LLU operator which can offer maximum speeds of 10Mbps to compete with eircom or bitstream competitors who can offer speeds of up to 50 Mbps on the same piece of copper, for the same price. (Unbundling every individual cabinet is possible in principle, but in practice, it would be too expensive for a small operator to do.)
Comreg has to make up its mind now whether it wants to devote its energies to protecting the interests of consumers, who need NGN and need it rolled out economically and fairly, or whether it is going to spend its time protecting the interests of the various unconsolidated bit players in the telecomms marketplace, by tying the whole country into dead technology, slow speeds and an unworkable business model.

Registration of mobile phones in Ireland

The government wants all mobile phones to be registered. According to the Programme for Government, ageed last month:

The government will … require all mobile phones to be registered with name, address and proof of identity in order to stop drug-pushers using untraceable, unregistered phones.

But I got the following email from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in January this year:

The idea for a Register of mobile phones was extensively reviewed by officials in the Department. There were many complex legal, technical, data protection and practical issues to be considered. In theory, a Register of mobile phones might seem like a good idea. However, having looked at the situation in other administrations, considered the ease with which an unregistered foreign or stolen SIM card can be used and the difficulties that would be posed in verifying identity in the
absence of a national identification card system, and having consulted with the Office of the Attorney General and other interested parties, it was concluded that the proposal would be of limited benefit, in that it would not solve the illegal and inappropriate use of pre-paid mobile
phones and was not practical.