[Ref No.: 23014/15]
To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which he expects high quality, high speed broadband to become available throughout the entire country, urban and rural with particular reference to the need to address the frustrations experienced by the domestic, business and commercial sectors arising from a lack of availability of high quality broadband services comparable to that available in other jurisdictions throughout Europe and globally; if it is recognised that the provision of adequate broadband services is a vital prerequisite to continued economic recovery; if he will provide the schedule for the provision of such services in early date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Bernard J. Durkan.
For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 16th June, 2015.
(21 Received on 22nd April, 2015.)
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Alex White)
The National Broadband Plan aims to ensure that every citizen and business, regardless of location, has access to a high quality, high speed broadband service. This will be achieved through a combination of commercial investments and a State led intervention in areas where commercial services will not be provided.
The commercial telecommunications sector is currently investing approximately €2.5 billion in network upgrades and enhanced services with approximately 1.6 million of the 2.3 million premises in Ireland expected to have access to commercial high speed broadband services over the next two years. These very significant investments represent a step-change in the quality of broadband services available.
Last November I published a national high speed coverage map for 2016. This map is available at www.broadband.gov.ie. The areas marked BLUE represent those areas that will have access to commercial high speed broadband services by end 2016.
The AMBER areas show the target areas for the State intervention. All premises within the AMBER areas will be included in the State’s intervention.
The map allows all members of the public, be they business or residential, to see whether their premises / home will have access to commercial high speed broadband services by end 2016 or whether they will be included in the Government’s proposed intervention.
It is anticipated that speeds of at least 30Mbps will be also delivered through the Government’s intervention and the network will be designed to cater for future increased demand from consumers and business.
More generally I can confirm that next generation broadband services have been rolled out to approximately 1.2 premises to date in Ireland with a further 400,000 expected to be served over the next 18 months. The remaining 700,000 premises in Ireland are the target for the proposed State intervention under the National Broadband Plan, subject to examination of any further commercial development plans in the area.
eircom recently announced an investment that may address a further 300,000 premises with fibre-to-the-premises technology. My Department will be rigorously examining the assurances from eircom in relation to these new plans, which is a requirement for all operators, and will review how this impacts the proposed intervention area.
Intensive design and planning work is underway in my Department to produce a detailed intervention strategy for the AMBER area. Following a public consultation process on the draft Intervention Strategy this summer, I hope to move to formal procurement phase towards the end of this year in order to select a preferred bidder or bidders.
I expect the physical build of the network to begin in late 2016, and it will take between three and five years to fully complete €“ depending on the details of the bid or bids selected.
This complex and ambitious project is a key priority for Government and aims to conclusively address current broadband connectivity issues in Ireland.
It is envisaged that access to high speed broadband coupled with the measures being introduced under the National Digital Strategy will maximise growth potential in rural areas by encouraging businesses to make better use of the internet so that they can reach wider markets, grow their business and create jobs.