Those using satellite broadband in Northern Ireland to satisfy the DETI promise of 100% broadband coverage have until 31st October to agree to a change of contract or they will lose service on 31st March 2009.
"I am determined that Northern Ireland should maintain its 100% broadband availability status and those living in remote areas should continue to have access to broadband services at a reasonable cost.
My department is therefore issuing an invitation to tender today for a service provider that can offer basic broadband services to those premises that are unable to access a fixed-line solution.
Those customers who are currently in receipt of broadband services via satellite will receive a letter and a form from BT to explain the change of contract. Customers should complete the form and return it to DETI as quickly as possible, to ensure they are registered as a priority for migration to the new service as soon as it is in place.
DETI wishes to reassure those affected customers that the migration process, from one service provider to another, will take place as a matter of urgency and free of charge."Telecoms Minister Arlene Foster
eGov monitor indicates that while the contract is currently with BT the next five year contract is open to tender. Whether BT are in the running for a renewal is not known, one would presume they would put in a bid, but if a better option was available then the DETI is likely to change supplier.
For those backing the calls for universal broadband which includes the EU, the fact that satellite broadband can meet this is something that perhaps people need to be wary of. Satellite access is good for many internet related tasks, but interactive applications like online gaming will be slow due to the latency involved with satellite communications. It would seem sensible for bodies funding universal broadband to consider the longer term situation, and whether a higher short term cost to install a decent quality wireless network, or subsidise a fibre based solution to communities would be more beneficial and cheaper in the long run. Unfortunately for those in communities with poor broadband access, quick fixes that score good PR points for politicians are often more popular, than longer term fixes.