ADSL and broadband in Greece. How far behind are we?

I am in my room in Madrid in a hotel that provides free ADSL to each and every one of its rooms. I must admit I was impressed. Downloading files, checking email and surfing was generally a pleasure with transfer rates ranging between 16 – 55KB/s (something pretty impressive considering at least one other person in the hotel was using the service!)

The sorry state of Greek broadband options for consumers along with the fact that Greece is the only out of the European “15” states (and one of the few out of the European “25” of the future) that does not have ADSL and Cable solutions for fast internet coupled with the ever reducing prices of fast internet access all over Europe are certainly concerning. In Spain, ADSL adoption is growing rapidly, perhaps as fast or even faster than the UK. Other countries enjoy fast and cheap DSL and cable connections for at least three years. Greek ISPs and the formerly nationalised Telecom provider (OTE) has delayed the roll-out of ADSL services for at least two years: Why?

Adoption of high-speed DSL or cable solutions to consumer internet access is costly. Not only is the roll out, purchase, configuration and training for setting up new equipment such as ADSL AMs etc. expensive — something of an increasing importance in the post-e-commerce bust era — but bandwidth costs for such providers is still prohibitively high for small providers. Moreover, the income from DSL connections is certainly lower as compared with the income from PSTN or ISDN based internet access.

In the UK, as well as other countries, laws and provisions for broadband services adoption force ISPs and Telecom companies to ease the tarrifs and increase their offerings, both in terms of cost and variety. In 2003 a standard 512/128 DSL connection in the UK cost from about £20 – £30 depending on the provider.

With companies such as Vivodi offering ADSL services in Athens (with much more limited bandwidth) for twice or three times the price, things look as bleak as ever. Intraconnect a pioneering company offering DSL — in several ‘pilot’ programmes, failed miserably to convince of its maturity or expertise; low quality services were the typical during the first year of their offerings with demand for their product dwindling fast, after acquiring such a bad reputation. Big internet providers, such as Forthnet and Otenet have merely mentioned DSL as an upcoming service in the near future, whereas smaller ones haven’t even done that.

Fortunately, the matter is being lobbied more intensively than before; web sites such as GreeceOffline and are trying hard to put pressure on the organisations and people responsible to amend the situation. Unfortunately, lack of organisation as well as maturity has prevented big improvements. Only time will show how soon Greece will enjoy the benefits of the ‘Information Society’ in which we are supposed to be living in. And all this, while I am sitting in my bed in the hotel in Madrid with my laptop, using the free ADSL connection provided. There’s something wrong to this.