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EU Funds Broadband Fiber MAN in Ireland

The European Commission has authorised, under EC Treaty state aid rules, a programme to boost broadband availability in Ireland. Ireland is lagging behind most EU-15 Member States in broadband penetration. The Irish Government will create open-access Metropolitan Area Networks (�MANs�) in over 120 Irish towns at a cost of 170 million Euros, with support from EU structural funds. The Commission concluded that the aid was not likely to distort competition within the EU significantly.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes commented: �I am pleased to endorse this expansion of the Irish Metropolitan Area Network programme. The open networks will enable all operators to offer high-speed broadband services to businesses and citizens in the towns concerned. The project will boost competition in the area and is fully in line with the Commission�s policy to promote broadband in areas which would otherwise miss out.�

In the EU-15, broadband take-up in Ireland ranks second lowest, just before Greece. In late 2005, only 5.3 percent of the population had broadband connections. A large part of the Irish population is located in the Greater Dublin area. In many smaller towns, infrastructure investments by telecommunications operators are limited due to the high construction cost and low likely return of investment. Furthermore, cable networks exist only in few Irish cities. Therefore, there is no competition on the infrastructure level in the towns targeted by the project.

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