Written answers

Wednesday, 11 October 2006

Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

Telecommunications Services

9:00 pm

Photo of M J NolanM J Nolan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail)
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Question 153: To ask the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he expects broadband to be rolled out to an area (details supplied) in County Carlow; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the lack of this service is contributing to the daily deterioration in commuting traffic between counties such as Carlow and Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32275/06]

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources; Meath, Fianna Fail)
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The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), the independent regulator.

However, it has been clear for some time that the sector has failed to invest at the level necessary to keep pace with the demand for broadband. My Department's regional broadband programme is addressing the infrastructure deficit by building high-speed open access broadband networks, in association with the local and regional authorities, in the major towns and cities. These Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) will allow the private sector to offer world-class broadband services at competitive costs. The networks offer towns opportunities to attract inward investment in advanced technology and knowledge based enterprises.

Twenty-seven MANs have been completed under the first phase and are currently being managed by ENet, the Management Services Entity, including one in Carlow town. The second phase extends the programme to over 90 towns with a population of 1,500 and above that do not have a satisfactory broadband offering from the private sector, including Tullow and Bagenalstown in Co. Carlow.

A joint industry/Government fund of €18 million has been established for the Broadband for Schools Programme to resource the provision of high speed broadband connectivity to all primary and post primary schools in the country by end Autumn 2006, at no cost to the schools themselves. A total of 95% of schools have broadband installed to date; the aim is to complete the outstanding schools in the coming weeks.

However, there are some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband connectivity. I am currently examining options to address the delivery of broadband services to these areas and I hope to be in a position to bring proposals to Government shortly.

There are a number of platforms for delivery of broadband and service providers are now offering broadband by wireless, satellite, fibre or standard telephone cable in all areas of the country. My Department operates a dedicated website, www.broadband.gov.ie where potential broadband customers can ascertain the availability of services in their area. I understand that DSL and Satellite are available in Coppenagh, County Carlow.

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