Tuesday, 26 June 2007
Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
Question 786: To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when the full roll-out of broadband will take place in Counties Longford and Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16999/07]
The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter for the companies operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated, where appropriate, by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.
It continues to be a priority of the Government that there will be broadband coverage across the entire country. In that regard my Department has undertaken initiatives to address the gaps in broadband coverage. These include providing grant-aid under the recently concluded Group Broadband Scheme and investment in Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) in over 120 towns and cities under the Regional Broadband Programme.
Twenty-seven MANs have been completed under the first phase and are currently being managed by ENet, the Managed Services Entity. The second phase will extend the programme to an additional 90 towns. Under the first phase of the MANs programme the following Westmeath towns have received broadband infrastructure:
Mullingar MAN provided an 18 km network;
Athlone MAN provided a 20 km network.
The construction of a 16.3 km MAN in Longford town under the second phase of the MANs programme has been completed and final arrangements are being made to hand the completed network over to an interim Managed Services Entity (MSE) until the appointment of a permanent MSE is announced following a competitive tender process which is under way.
Despite Government investment in broadband in the regions through the regional broadband programme, there are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband connectivity. The procurement process for the Government's new National Broadband Scheme (NBS) was launched on the 2 May 2007. This scheme will provide broadband services to the areas of Ireland that are currently unserved and ensure that every reasonable request for broadband in these unserved areas is met. The estimated timescale for the award of the NBS contract is December 2007.