To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which he has had discussions with the Regulator, telecommunications sector/service providers and the community at large in the context of availability, standard and quality of broadband in all areas throughout the country in line with standard and quality available in other European and worldwide jurisdictions; if he has received submissions in this regard in his Department from any or all of the interested parties; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Bernard J. Durkan.
For ORAL answer on Thursday, 17th July, 2014.
Ref No: 31621/14 Lottery: 23
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Mr. Alex White T.D.)
The Government’s National Broadband Plan to accelerate commercial investment in high speed broadband infrastructure and to launch a Government led market intervention to make high speed broadband services accessible in areas the commercial market will not serve, was preceded by a Next Generation Broadband Taskforce (NGBT) report and a public consultation process.
The NGBT report identifies actions which could accelerate commercial investment in high speed broadband infrastructure where such investment is commercially viable and areas the commercial market is unlikely to serve. The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), which is independent in the exercise of its functions, participated in the NGBT in an observer capacity. The launch of the NGBT report, in May 2012 was followed by a four week public consultation.
The National Broadband Plan was published in August 2012 in response to the NGBT report and consultation. Since publication of the Plan, commercial operators have either invested, or committed to invest, approximately €2.5 billion in broadband services. As a result of the increased investment the addressable area required by a State-led intervention to make high speed broadband accessible in areas the commercial market will not serve has been reduced by 30%.
The Government has committed to an ambitious network build-out to rural Ireland, with fibre as the foundation of the State-led intervention. This will be part of an end-to-end strategy to deliver high speed broadband services to all parts of Ireland that cannot be commercially served.
Under EU State Aid Guidelines Member States cannot intervene where commercial investors have plans to roll out services. A comprehensive mapping exercise is underway in my Department, to identify those areas that require a State intervention. An initial list has already been identified and includes over 1,100 towns and villages across Ireland.
A stakeholder consultation on the implementation of the State-led intervention has recently been launched and will feed into the mapping exercise, which I expect to conclude in autumn. It is my intention to conduct a full public consultation on the outcome of the mapping process and the proposed end-to-end strategy. EU State aid clearance will also be required. This will be followed by a detailed procurement process with a view to commencing construction of the fibre network and provision of services as quickly as possible.