Thursday, 4 November 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
National Broadband Plan
15. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the roll-out of the national broadband plan in an area (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53283/21]
I would say the Minister of State is blue in the face from answering questions about the national broadband plan. It is a constant theme here but we are here to voice the concerns of many of our constituents. I am losing track of the number of parliamentary questions that I have lodged in this area. I would be grateful if I could get an up-to-date report on the roll-out in the Cork North-Central area.
I thank Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan. I am not complaining about answering questions; it is my job. I have been asked about Cork North-Central in the past and the more the Deputy asks those questions, the more things are likely to happen in a faster way in that area. The Deputy is right to do it.
There are over 276,000 premises in County Cork, of which over 80,000 are within the national broadband plan intervention area. Government will invest in the order of €314 million to bring those premises up to high speed broadband.
I am advised by National Broadband Ireland that, as of 27 October 2021, almost 26,000 premises in County Cork have been surveyed. In total, over 272,000 premises in the intervention area across all counties have been surveyed, with over 115,000 premises under construction across 30 deployment areas. Retail service providers are actively selling on the NBI network with over 30,000 premises available to order and pre-order in counties Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Monaghan, Roscommon, Tipperary and Wicklow. This includes over 4,500 premises in County Cork.
NBI's fibre network architecture is centred around existing Open Eir exchanges and the State-owned metropolitan area networks. This strategy is based on engineering design principles that allows every premises to be passed as quickly and as efficiently as possible. The fibre network is divided up into 227 deployment areas, DA. Each deployment area is centred around existing regional or local exchanges. The areas referred to in the questions are covered by a number of different deployment areas and, therefore, the timescale for premises being passed by the new high speed broadband network will vary.
Surveys are complete in County Cork in the deployment areas of Carrigaline, Midleton, Youghal, Templemartin and Tallow. Main build work is currently under way in Midleton and Youghal and is complete in Carrigaline. I am advised that premises will be available for connection in the Midleton deployment area in the first half of 2022. This covers the areas of North Esk, Carbeytown and Rougrane. Further details are available on specific areas within County Cork through the NBI website which provides a facility for people living within the intervention area to register their interest in being provided with deployment updates at www.nbi.ie.
Broadband connection points, BCPs, are a key element of the NBP. As of 27 October, 386 BCP sites have been installed by NBI.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The high speed broadband service will be switched on in these locations through service provider contracts managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development for publicly accessible sites and the Department of Education for school BCPs.
BCPs are installed in County Cork at Ballydaly Community Hall, Aubane Community Centre, Mealagh Valley Community Centre, Courtbrack Community Centre, Laharn Heritage Centre, Ballindangan Community Centre, Clogagh Community Hall, Aghabullogue Community Centre, Castletownkenneigh Community Centre, The Old Schoolhouse, Bere Island Heritage Centre, Coláiste Phobal Cléire, Lissavard Community Centre, Whitechurch Community Centre, Glash Community Centre, T.O. Park Labbamollaga and Sherkin Island Community Hall.
Templebrady National School, Ballycroneen National School, Clogagh National School, Educate Together Carrigaline, Ringaskiddy Lower Harbour National School, Scoil Naomh Fionán na Reanna, Ballygarvan National School and Shanbally National School have been installed by NBI for educational access. My Department continues to work with the Department of Education to prioritise schools with no high speed broadband within the intervention area for connection over the term of the NBP. In this regard, an acceleration of this aspect of the national broadband plan announced in December will see some 679 primary schools connected to high speed and by 2022, well ahead of the original target delivery timeframe of 2026.
I thank the Minister of State for the update. Every time I lodge the parliamentary question, as the Minister of State said, the numbers are changing and increasing. I welcome that and the investment that the Minister of State detailed.
The difficulty I have with the responses that we are getting is I am hearing a great deal about Midleton. Meaning no disrespect to Midleton, it is in another constituency. I wish them the best of luck. I am hearing about many other towns and townlands and, unfortunately, very few in my constituency of Cork North-Central until the Minister of State mentioned Rougrane and the Caherlag-Carbeytown area, which is a rural and isolated-enough area, and which I welcome.
However, we in Cork North-Central - I note Deputy Gould's question is taken with mine - would be seriously concerned about the lack of roll-out in our own immediate area.
I would add that the delays in the broadband plan roll-out have been well document. I note the Secretary General of the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications was before the Committee of Public Accounts recently. We are all aware that the plan is estimated to be 50% behind where it is supposed to be and that is obviously concerning.
I thank the Deputy. The deployment areas, each of which include approximately 4,000 customers, do not match the constituencies. Therefore, we have three different deployment areas covering Cork North-Central. Large parts of those deployment areas are not in the Deputy's constituency and that is why I am mentioning areas that are outside of where the Deputy is.
Clogheen Mixed National School is located at Carrigrohane, Gaelscoil Uí Drisceoil, Lower Glanmire National School, Scoil Náisiúnta Bhiorainn in Berrings, Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire, Rathpeacon, Scoil Náisiúnta Pádraig Naofa in Whitechurch, Scoil Chroí Íosa and Vicarstown Mixed National School are all prioritised for roll-out over the next 15 months.
If there are areas that the Deputy thinks a broadband connection would be suitable, I can ask that it be looked into. Eir and SIRO are connecting many more homes in the Deputy's constituency and he should speak to them too. If there are specific homes which cannot get a decent broadband service, he should contact the Department and I will try to help.
I welcome many of those schools being connected as broadband connection points. I welcome the increase in the number of BCP sites installed from 302 the last time I asked a parliamentary question on the issue to 386 now. There is no doubt progress is being made but it is slower than we would hope. People are demanding this service.
The Minister of State indicated that surveying in Cork was complete, which is great. With regard to all the big contracts that are out for tender, the Minister has penalties and other powers at his disposal. I am not asking if these will be used but for specific information on the powers available to the Minister under the contract in the event of tardiness or further delays in the roll-out.
When I started in this role I informed the company that I would be applying all of the penalties I could legally apply and there would be no mercy shown. I did so because I did not want the idea to form that I would overlook issues and we would just try to work together. A range of penalty clauses apply for being late with the delivery of installation. Penalty clauses also apply if the service is unreliable. If the service is dropping, for example, specific euro amounts are charged. For the first two years of the contract, a grace period applies during which the penalty clauses for late installation are not applied. That period runs out in February 2022, after which the company will be charged if anything is late.
National Broadband Ireland is only paid for what it does. Each time it connects an entire deployment area, which is 4,000 people, it receives a large sum of money. However, it is not paid if it is not connecting.