Tuesday, 30 November 2010
Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
Question 18: To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the implementation of a one-stop-shop for broadband; if he has met with all the State agencies to ensure open access for telecommunications purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44996/10]
The objective of the one-stop-shop commitment in the Next Generation Broadband policy paper "Gateway to a Knowledge Ireland" is to facilitate telecoms network operators in gaining access to ducting that exists along publicly-owned energy, transport and other infrastructure so as to facilitate access to backhaul networks in a cost effective manner. Government policy is aimed at leveraging such State-owned infrastructure to help deliver high-speed broadband and improved telecommunications services throughout the country. The policy also strongly supports this being done on an open-access basis and I do not favour exclusive deals whereby one service provider secures exclusive access to a particular State-owned network.
In general terms there are no current impediments to accessing the majority of State-owned telecommunications infrastructure. Both ESB Telecoms and Aurora Telecom, which is a division of Bord Gáis Networks, have developed highly successful commercial ventures in this area. Indeed the recent announcement of Aurora's investment in ultra-high speed fibre-optic network linking Dublin to the West of Ireland is very positive evidence of the critical role this type of infrastructure can play in the delivery of high-speed networks. ESB's infrastructure allows the company to provide high capacity managed services and it is also playing a vital role in the delivery of the 100mbps pilot project to secondary schools.
Access to Irish Rail's network is also available through its long-standing commercial arrangement with BT and I have also enacted legislation earlier this year designating the National Roads Authority as the single point of contact for accessing State-owned infrastructure on national roads and motorways. Open access is also available to Inland Waterway's ducting running along tow paths on some of our canal network. Coillte possesses some 400 mast sites, including 20% of NBS sites, and have all of the mobile operators as customers. RTE owns some 150 masts and towers at various remote high sites and shares its infrastructure with the mobile operators. Furthermore, approximately 200 of the masts owned by the Garda are used by the mobile operators for GSM and 3G purposes.
Earlier this month I met with all of these relevant State Agencies as well as a representative from the City and County Managers' Association to discuss how we can work together to ensure that no unnecessary impediments are put in place regarding access issues and, where possible, to open up infrastructure that heretofore has not been utilised for telecommunications purposes. My primary message to the Agencies was that investment in Next Generation Networks was critical given the need for good high quality networks to support future economic growth and that one of the key challenges for all players in the sector was to strike the correct balance between the need for closer collaboration while maintaining the necessary competitive tensions in the market.
There was broad agreement at this meeting that the issue of the most appropriate future role that can be played by State-owned infrastructure should form part of the considerations of the NGN Taskforce that is being set up at present and which will hold its first meeting in mid-December next. As I have pointed out there is already an elaborate network of state owned assets which is open to service providers for broadband purposes and which is playing a very significant and positive part in the development of Ireland's telecommunications and broadband market. Apart from the quality of service thus provided this is also ensuring market-place competition with the incumbent, eircom. In this way the objectives of the one-stop-shop as set in the 2009 Broadband Policy paper are being delivered.
I am anxious to ensure that this is being done in an optimal way that maximises future provision of competitive next generation broadband in the market by the industry. This is why the views of industry, which will be expressed as part of the deliberations of the NGN Taskforce, will be important in terms of taking informed long-term decisions on how we can optimise the role the State agencies can play in the provision of a modern, fit-for-purpose next generation telecommunications network.