Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
Marcella Corcoran Kennedy (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
Question 401: To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he will be in a position to supply high speed broadband to an area (details supplied) in County Offaly; if it is envisaged that the existing service will be improved in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8015/12]
Pat Rabbitte (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South West, Labour)
Ireland’s telecommunications market has been liberalised since 1999 and thus the delivery of all communications services in that market, including broadband services, is a matter for private sector commercial operators, in the first instance. EU State Aid and competition rules govern how states can intervene in the market which, as a general rule, prohibits State intervention in areas already served by the open market. The National Broadband Scheme is an example of an approved Government intervention on the basis that it is restricted to providing a basic broadband service in areas of the country un-served by the open market.
Under the NewERA proposals in the Programme for Government, there is a commitment to co-invest with the private sector and commercial Semi State sector to provide high-speed Next Generation Broadband access to every home and business in the State.
The Next Generation Broadband Taskforce, which I convened last summer, has an important role to play in this regard. The Taskforce, which I chair, also comprises Minister of State, Fergus O’Dowd, T.D., the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies operating in the Irish market, as well as CEOs of some other companies that provide broadband services. The purpose of the Taskforce is to discuss and report on policy issues and proposals in relation to the provision of high speed broadband across Ireland.
The Taskforce, and four Working Groups reporting to it, are considering issues such as targets, spectrum policy, private sector investment plans, and the removal of barriers in order to facilitate investment. I expect that the Taskforce will help to identify how best to deliver wider customer access to high-speed broadband generally and thereby assist in delivering on the commitment in the Programme for Government.
The Taskforce will conclude its deliberations shortly. I intend to consider the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the report of the Taskforce and to make a submission to Government in this regard. It is my objective to move quickly thereafter to put in place the optimal policy environment for the delivery of high speed broadband.