Written answers

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

Telecommunications Services

6:00 pm

Photo of Martin HeydonMartin Heydon (Kildare South, Fine Gael)
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Question 134: To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps being taken and the timeframe to improve broadband access at a location (details supplied) in County Kildare. [12973/12]

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South West, Labour)
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Ireland's telecommunications market has been liberalised since 1999 and thus the delivery of broadband services is a matter, in the first instance, for private sector commercial operators which are licensed and regulated by the independent regulator, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

The Government has undertaken a number of initiatives to bring broadband to those parts of the country where operators have been unable to offer services on a commercial basis. In the case of one such intervention, namely the National Broadband Scheme (NBS), services are available since October 2010 from the NBS service provider, 3, to persons with a fixed residence or fixed business in each of the 1,028 Electoral Divisions (ED) designated to be covered under the Scheme. The area of Hobartstown, Moone, County Kildare in Belan ED (Ref: 87012), falls outside of the NBS Coverage Area.

The EU State Aid and competition rules govern how States can intervene in areas where existing service providers operate. Accordingly, the NBS is prohibited from providing a service in served areas where to do so would give rise to an unacceptable level of market distortion. The mapping exercise undertaken by my Department at the time of designing the NBS in 2008, found that broadband services were available in Belan ED and consequently the ED was excluded from the Scheme.

However, the general area of Moone, County Kildare encompasses two additional EDs, namely Carrigeen ED (Ref: 87021) and Moone ED (Ref: 87068), both of which are in the NBS Coverage Area and residents in these areas can obtain broadband through the Scheme. Should residents in the general area of Moone, County Kildare, wish to check if their premises is in the NBS Coverage Area, they can do so by contacting 3 by telephone at 1800 944791 or by using the Coverage Check facility on 3's website at the following link: http://www.three.ie/contractstore/shop/flow/BroadbandCoverageCheck.aspx.

The Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS) was launched last year in recognition of the fact that despite the widespread availability of broadband throughout Ireland, there still remained individual premises that were unable to receive broadband provision, due to technical difficulties such as line of sight issues. This Scheme, which is being rolled out this year, is aimed at making a basic broadband service available to those individual un-served premises in rural non-NBS areas who wish to avail of such services. There were 198 applications made to the RBS in respect of premises in County Kildare.

The combination of private investment and State interventions means that Ireland will meet the EU Commission's "Digital Agenda for Europe" target of having a basic broadband service available to all areas by 2013.

The Government accepts that the widespread availability of high speed broadband is a key requirement in delivering future economic and social development. With basic broadband services now widely available across Ireland, the challenge is to accelerate the roll out of high speed services. The Next Generation Broadband Taskforce, which I convened last summer, has an important role to play in this regard. It comprises the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies operating in the Irish market, as well as CEOs of some other companies that provide broadband services. The Taskforce will conclude its deliberations shortly. I intend to consider the findings and recommendations of the report of the Taskforce as quickly as possible and to make a submission to Government in this regard. It is my objective to move quickly thereafter to put in place the optimal policy environment for the delivery of high speed broadband.

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