Wednesday, 15 June 2005
Noel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources; Meath, Fianna Fail)
In future, a number of appeals may be heard at the same time to avoid undue delay. If people decide to go to court, I hope their cases are heard by the commercial rather than the normal courts to expedite matters. As Deputy Durkan is correct continually to point out, this is a matter of significant national importance and interest. While I am satisfied the directions of my predecessor are being implemented and pursued by the regulator, appeals mechanisms are in place in this area also which may slow things up. The fault is not with ComReg.
I dealt with access to infrastructure in my initial reply. I would like to see speedier progress. We saw the example of the local loop unbundling that has been challenged and appealed, which is certainly not the approach I like to see people take. I would like people, especially the incumbent, to accept the process is in the national interest and that they should co-operate fully with it. There is a great deal of business potential in the process for the incumbent and, apart from the competition which comes in, it will be good for the industry.
Deputy Durkan also asked about concern in the industry that the target might not be achieved. All these questions are related to one another and I have responded to each. I would be concerned if we did not reach the target which is the minimum required. While we hope there will be a sea change in attitudes, we intend to ensure through ComReg that the benefits of local loop and unbundling and an open market are available to all consumers as soon as it is legally possible. Some of the actions which have been taken over the past two or three years have shown what can happen. The recent report demonstrates that prices for telecommunications have fallen in Ireland by approximately 20% over the past 12 to 18 months as a direct result of deregulation. Companies can well afford to allow them to fall further, which is what we would like to see happen.