Tuesday, 1 June 2021
Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed) - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
National Broadband Plan
66. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan in Galway city and county; the number of premises in Galway city and county that are now connected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29389/21]
I will return to the issue of broadband. Deputy Canney has raised this issue but I am raising it with specific regard to the status of the roll-out of the national broadband plan in Galway city and county. How many premises in Galway city and county are now connected? I do not know if the Minister of State is familiar with the works of Kafka but I have privileges as Leas-Cheann Comhairle and therefore have the reply here. If he likes, the Minister of State can save going into the detail of the reply but I fail to see the answer to my question within it. Perhaps he can enlighten me.
There are 38,897 premises in the intervention area in County Galway that will receive access to high-speed broadband under the national broadband plan, NBP. I am advised that, as of 27 May, 14,914, or 38%, of these have been surveyed by National Broadband Ireland, NBI. Surveying is the first step towards delivering the new fibre network and informs design solutions for the provision of that network. The detailed designs are then used to initiate the "make ready" project with open eir whereby open eir ensures that any poles and ducts being reused are fit for purpose and that other required infrastructure is made ready. This step also informs decisions on ordering equipment. Survey data is also needed to initiate preliminary works which pave the way for the deployment of fibre. Preliminary works involve construction of new duct routes, erection of poles, building chambers and tree trimming. On completion of these works, the main construction works can commence.
The NBP deployment plan is divided into 227 deployment areas. I understand that the network build is ongoing in two deployment areas in County Galway. These comprise one deployment area around Galway city and a second in the Ballinasloe area, which includes some premises in County Roscommon. The build works include 5,340 premises in County Galway. Once these construction works are completed and the appropriate level of testing has been undertaken, the fibre network can be commissioned and end users will be able to order their connection. For the areas around Galway city, it is anticipated that connections will be available in July or August and in August or September for the Ballinasloe area. Further details on specific areas in Galway are available through the NBI website, which provides a facility for any premises within the intervention area to register an interest in being provided with deployment updates.
Broadband connection points are a key element of the NBP, providing high-speed broadband in every county in advance of the roll-out of the fibre-to-the-home network. As of 27 May, 317 broadband connection point sites have been installed by NBI.
I am not sure if the Minister of State understood my reference to Kafka but his reply has just confirmed that I have misjudged that writer. He is much easier to understand than the reply I am getting. I asked a simple question. How many premises in Galway city and county are now connected? Does the Minister of State have a reply to that question or do I take it that no premises have been connected? Of the 38,897, fewer than half have been surveyed. That is one step. We then move on to preliminary works, preliminary design and so on before finally building. Further into the reply it is stated that connections will be available by August. Build works are to be carried out in respect of 5,340 premises. A portion of this comprises premises in Galway city and these will be connected by August. Will the Minister of State enlighten me in that regard? I will even give him extra time.
That is very kind of the Deputy. She has it right. I am not sure I understand her reference to Kafka but the answer is that these 5,340 premises will be connected later in the year. It is a multistage process. There is a step where premises are surveyed, a step where they are moved past and a step where they are connected. This is happening in counties all around in Ireland in parallel. Those premises near Galway city and in Ballinasloe will be the first connected. I am not sure what part of that is unclear, complex or self-referencing. I have read Kafka but I am not sure this situation is Kafkaesque.
I am going back to read him in both English and Irish because he would be much easier to understand now. I read him before and had difficulty. No premises in Galway has been connected. I have to determine how many of the 5,340 premises are in the city and how many are in the county. I do not know. The reason I and other Deputies have raised this is because, outside of questions on housing and health, it is one of the most frequent inquiries we receive. As Deputy Canney said earlier, we simply want information. I welcome the fact that an acceleration of the programme is being considered. I do not believe that any Deputy was against broadband. What we wanted was clarity as to who was getting it and on what terms. We wanted accountability and a public service director and we wanted the State to own the network. There were many concerns but now we are looking at the practicalities. I cannot explain this to people. They are in amber areas or blue areas. The Minister of State will know better than me that people working from home are working under serious pressure. Some have no broadband while their neighbours do. It is extremely difficult to explain to them, although I do my best. I am going back to them to say that no premises have been connected but there will be light at the end of the tunnel for some premises in the city in July.
I can come back to the Deputy with a breakdown of how many of these premises are in Galway city and the Ballinasloe area or with any further information that would be useful to her. My office is always open for the Deputy to contact me. One thing I did not get to say is that broadband connection points have been rolled out. The idea is to set up areas in villages or towns that have broadband which can be used by anyone living in the area. Some 317 of these have been set up around the country. They can be rolled out much more quickly than fibre connections. It is not as good as having a fibre connection to one's home but it does provide community access to broadband within villages and towns which people can use if they need to work from home or need access to the Internet. It can be rolled out very quickly. A number of these points have been set up in Galway. Cortoon Community Centre, Comhar Na nOileán, Lettermullen Community Centre, the old secondary school in Glenamaddy, Brownsgrove National School, Mweenish National School, St. Joseph’s National School and St. Mary’s National School have all been connected to high-speed community connections. It is not the same as fibre but it is something and it is quick to roll out.