Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
Information and Communications Technology
Michael McCarthy (Cork South West, Labour)
Question 392: To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide an update on the status of metropolitan area network infrastructure projects in Dunmanway, Bantry, Skibbereen and Kinsale separately; the stage of each project; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that each network is lying dormant since 2005; if he will take this into consideration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7795/12]
Pat Rabbitte (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South West, Labour)
The provision and quality of electronic communications services, including broadband, is primarily a matter for private sector service providers, regulated and licensed by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). The State is not a service provider in the telecoms market and tends to intervene only in cases of demonstrated market failure.
The Government’s investment in Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs), is one such case of State intervention in the telecoms market. The aim of the MANs Programme is to provide an open access network to all service providers who wish to provide services in regional and rural towns. These state-of-the-art fibre networks are a long term strategic investment. They significantly enhance the productive capacity of local economies, particularly those that seek to attract companies requiring excellent telecoms infrastructure.
Under the MANs Programme, there were eleven MANs built in County Cork covering 15 towns, including four towns in west Cork - Dunmanway, Bantry, Skibbereen and Kinsale. The MANs are operated and managed on behalf of the State by a Managed Services Entity (MSE), e|net.
The following is the current position in relation to the MANs projects in Dunmanway, Bantry, Skibbereen and Kinsale:
The Dunmanway MAN was constructed in 2007 and was handed over to e|net in 2010. I have been advised by e|net that the Dunmanway MAN is expected to be live in the next month or so.
The Bantry MAN was constructed in 2007 and was handed over to e|net in 2010. The Bantry MAN is already operational, i.e. being used by industry.
The Skibbereen MAN was constructed in 2007 and was handed over to e|net in 2010. While the Skibbereen MAN is available for use, it does not have any connections. e|net is in discussions with local business representatives with the aim of stimulating demand for MAN based services.
The construction of the Kinsale MAN commenced in 2007. However, construction could not be completed due to the commencement of a local authority drainage project in Kinsale. Work recommenced on the Kinsale MAN in 2009 and the telecoms duct was largely completed in 2009. There is still some work to be done before the MAN can be fully completed and handed over to e|net. I am advised that the Kinsale MAN is due to be completed before the end of 2012.
While some MANs are currently inactive, such MANs are ready to meet the demand for fibre connectivity when that demand arises. It is important to note that the MANs for which e|net is responsible are managed and maintained on an ongoing basis. Even though a MAN may be inactive, it is monitored remotely and inspected regularly by e|net staff.
I must emphasise the long term nature of the MANs investment. While the networks will be available for generations to come, and facilitate digital based business of the future, they may not be used immediately, but they are available and I envisage that greater use will be made of the MANs in the coming years to provide bigger broadband to more businesses and citizens.