Ireland's largest telecommunications network provider, Eir, is launching a high court application against the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) to relieve it of its obligation to provide rural phone-lines.
Rebranded last year at a cost of €16m, Eir (formerly Eircom, formerly Telcom Eireann) is beholden under Universal Service Obligations (USO) which are part of the mandate of public utilities companies. USOs guarantee basic services such as water, electricity and phone-lines to every rural household. They are “designed to ensure that every person can receive a basic set of high quality telecommunications services, no matter where they live, at an affordable price.”
The USO website is unequivocal: “Eir was designated to provide universal services. Under Universal Service regulations, eir must meet every ‘reasonable’ request for a phone line.”
Eir is making a High Court submission in which it claims that the provision and maintenance of phone lines in isolated rural areas is not economically viable. It will argue that given the changing face of communications technologies, phone-lines are an obsolete communications portal and that Eir needs to be focused on providing high-speed internet cables instead.
In a statement, Eir said: “Ireland no longer needs a universal service provider for voice services given the commercial rollout of fibre already delivered, future plans for fibre rollout and mobile services in place.”