Written answers

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

Telecommunications Services

5:00 am

Photo of Brian HayesBrian Hayes (Dublin South West, Fine Gael)
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Question 24: To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans regarding digital copyright law reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44853/10]

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
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Copyright and related rights are primarily matters for the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation. I am, however, aware of the recent High Court judgement in a case involving UPC and Irish record companies. This case has implications for internet use and is therefore of concern to my Department given its role in relation to communications regulation.

The record companies sought an injunction under the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 against UPC to prevent the illegal downloading of copyright material by third parties over the internet and a court order for UPC to block access by its subscribers to sites that facilitate such illegal downloading. In its judgement, the court considered the precise scope of the legislative framework as set out in the Copyright Act and relevant European legislation. The court concluded that the Irish copyright legislation does not provide for the remedies sought and refused to grant them. I understand that the judgement has been referred by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation to the Attorney General for advice.

My Department has also sought the advice of the Attorney General in relation to any obligations my Department may have under the EU regulatory framework for telecommunications. That framework includes a provision whereby Member States may only impose restrictions on access to, and use of, services and applications through electronic communications networks, including internet access by end users, subject to adequate procedural safeguards, including effective judicial protection and due process.

I will work with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation to ensure that the State develops the right legal and market environment to both protect the rights of copyright holders and, at the same time, ensure we create a positive environment for the development of new internet services.

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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Question 25: To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on a recent Irish small and medium enterprises survey that showed SMEs are not fully capitalising on the web for online selling due to broadband inadequacies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44997/10]

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
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Government policy pertaining to the electronic communications market in Ireland is set out in "Next Generation Broadband – Gateway to a Knowledge Ireland", which I published in June 2009. The policy paper complements relevant provisions in the Government's Framework for Sustainable Economic Renewal "Building Ireland's Smart Economy", which recognises broadband as a key enabling infrastructure for the knowledge-intensive services and activities on which future prosperity will increasingly depend.

The telecommunications market in Ireland is fully liberalised and is regulated by the independent market regulator, ComReg. ComReg publishes quarterly statistical reports on developments in the fixed-line, mobile and broadband communications markets. These reports, among other things, demonstrate the significant progress in broadband roll out and increasing broadband speeds in Ireland over recent years. At the end of March 2007, for example, the number of broadband connections, at 600,000 approximately, first exceeded narrowband connections. Internationally, Ireland ranks 6th of the EU 27 for mobile broadband penetration and 15th for fixed broadband penetration.

This progress is also demonstrated in international comparisons. In a recent study of broadband services in 72 countries by the University of Oxford and the University of Oviedo, Spain, Ireland is ranked 13th of the 72 countries studied, ahead of France, Canada, the United States and the UK. The study considered broadband quality (i.e. download speeds, upload speeds, and latency) and broadband penetration to map the world's broadband leaders. Ireland is also grouped amongst the top ten broadband movers since 2009 with 88% broadband penetration, an 11% increase on the previous year.

ComReg also conducts and publishes regular user attitude surveys to telecommunications services. The most recent ComReg customer survey of commercial customers using broadband services found:

Overall, 92% have internet access and rate their satisfaction with the speeds they receive highly – three quarters say they are satisfied.

Nearly half claim download speeds of over 10Mb and 23% have speeds of between 10Mb and 20Mb.

Over 6 in 10 (63%) of all businesses with Internet believe that their Internet service provider is delivering the speeds stated in their package.

56% of broadband users consider the reliability of their broadband connection to be the most important aspect of their broadband service, compared to 5% who believe cost is the most important aspect.

The positive findings in the ComReg attitude surveys are consistent with the more positive findings in the ISME survey which finds 98% of SMEs are using broadband, 83% of companies have websites, and 39% of business have reported that the internet has reduced business costs. Additionally, less than 2.4% of consumer complaints to ComReg in the year to July 2010 related to broadband speeds.

In order to enable more SME's to unlock the potential of the internet and on-line transacting for their businesses, the Digital Hub Development Agency has piloted a "WebActivate" programme in 2010. Under this programme young people on the live register are being provided with training and support to become self employed as service providers. They then go on to work with small Irish businesses to help those small companies to establish themselves on the internet. This programme is therefore tackling the digital divide for businesses and individuals and complements investments in broadband infrastructure.

Investment in improved broadband services and infrastructure in Ireland is ongoing within a liberalised open competitive market. The Next Generation Broadband policy paper also proposed the establishment of a Next Generation Broadband Taskforce comprising industry, Government and ComReg. It is my objective that the Taskforce can facilitate a collaborative approach to the roll out of next generation broadband to meet the demands of Ireland's Smart Economy by enabling wider customer access to next generation networks. I look forward to the first meeting of the Taskforce in the coming weeks.

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