Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 June 2005

 

Telecommunications Services.

3:00 pm

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources; Meath, Fianna Fail)

The telecommunications sector is fully liberalised and regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation. With the repeal of section 111 of the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act 1983 on 25 July 2003, the former licensing regime has been replaced by a general entitlement to provide telecommunications networks and services, including broadband, subject to compliance with standard conditions set out by ComReg in a general authorisation.

Before providing networks or services to third parties, operators are required to submit a notification to ComReg for the purposes of compiling a register of such operators.

In March 2004, my predecessor issued a number of policy directions to ComReg on competition, broadband, wholesale and retail line rental, interconnection leased lines and national and cross-Border roaming.

While access to suitable infrastructure is a major factor in the provision of broadband by the sector, the Government recognised by 2002 that investment by the sector had failed to keep pace with demand. In March 2002, the Government decided to target the widespread availability of open access affordable infrastructure using funding from the European Regional Development Fund and State funding under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. The metropolitan area networks, MANs, programme is the mainstay of the Government's broadband strategy and has given the sector access to world-class infrastructure which it could not have afforded to build for itself. Full details of the MANs programme and my Department's other broadband roll-out initiatives can be found on the website www.dcmnr.gov.ie.

It is an indicator of the increasingly buoyant state of the broadband market in Ireland that the ComReg register of authorised undertakings currently lists 169 service providers which offer Internet access using a variety of technologies, including DSL, fixed wireless, cable modem, fibre, leased lines and satellite technology. My Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie lists 190 different service offers from the sector ranging from 0.256 mbps to 56 mbps. Of those, 25 are priced at €25 per month or less. The number of broadband users is now over 160,000, which represents an increase of more than 400% since January 2004. I am confident the industry can achieve the target I have set of 500,000 broadband customers by the end of 2006.

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