Thursday, 15 July 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 and 108 together.
I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. The mobile phone and broadband task force was launched in July 2016 with the objective of improving access to high-quality mobile phone coverage and broadband services in rural Ireland. Since its inception, the task force has addressed more than 70 targeted actions, worked on removing structural barriers to telecommunications deployment and addressed mobile coverage deficits, particularly in rural areas. The completion of the task force's 2019 work programme marked the end of the task force as originally constituted. Attention has now turned towards its future orientation in line with the programme for Government commitment to continue to support the work of the group. Officials in my Department and the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications have prepared a report on the task force's achievements and are currently evaluating what issues should be addressed by it in the future. Significant progress has been made by the task force although I am aware that there remains a range of strategic issues whose solution will require multiple Departments and agencies working together.
Since its inception, the implementation and overseeing of the task force have involved a joint commitment of the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and my Department. I will continue to work with my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, to agree a new direction for the task force that will build on the success and positive engagement across central and local government, statutory agencies and industry.
I was involved in the setting up of the task force in 2016. At the time, I set up broadband officers in every county in the country. Having spoken to the telecommunications operators, I have learned that the task force structure and broadband officers have been invaluable to them in sorting out problems they have encountered on the ground, be they associated with planning or infrastructure. The arrangement has been very successful.