Written answers

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Photo of Robert TroyRobert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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288. To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the correct procedure to advance the case for inclusion of any given area in the fibre roll-out plan announced on 25 April; the criteria his Department will use in assessing additional areas for inclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28521/14]

Photo of Robert TroyRobert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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290. To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the industry forum anticipated in the national broadband plan has met; the dates of the meetings; the names of the attendees and their organisations; his plans to publish the minutes of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28523/14]

Photo of Robert TroyRobert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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293. To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources regarding the consultation carried out in 2011 by his Department regarding open access fibre ducting and interior cabling for new residential buildings the steps taken to update national building, infrastructure design, and local and regional planning regulations to take account of the results of this consultation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28526/14]

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South West, Labour)
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I propose to take Questions Nos 288, 290 and 293 together

In June 2011, I established a Next Generation Broadband Taskforce which comprised the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications operators in Ireland and a number of smaller operators, together with senior officials from my own Department. The purpose of the Taskforce was to consider how best to facilitate the delivery of high speed broadband by commercial operators, the appropriate role that Government could play in supporting commercial deployment, and to identify the gap in commercial deployment where the Government may have to intervene.

The report of the Taskforce was published in May 2012 and this critically informed the Government's National Broadband Plan which was published in August 2012. Full details of the Taskforce membership and its deliberations are available on my Department's website.

Building on the work of the Taskforce, the National Broadband Plan aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed broadband is available to all citizens and businesses. This will be achieved by providing:

- a policy and regulatory framework that assists in accelerating and incentivising commercial investment; and

- a State-led intervention for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest.

Engagement with industry is central to the delivery of the objectives of the National Broadband Plan. Since publication of the Plan, investments by the commercial sector are underway and in some instances have been accelerated in both fixed line and wireless high speed broadband services. Commercial operators combined have either invested, or committed to invest, over €2 billion in delivering high speed broadband to homes and businesses.

As a result of this accelerated investment the addressable area required by the State-led intervention has been reduced by 30% since the National Broadband Plan was launched.

On 25 April last, I signalled the Government's commitment to a major telecommunications network build-out to rural Ireland, with fibre as the foundation of its investment, as part of the State-led intervention under the National Broadband Plan. This commitment is a clear expression of Government’s determination to address the connectivity challenge in rural Ireland in a meaningful and sustainable way.

Central to the strategy will be a long term, future proofed infrastructure build with next generation backhaul infrastructure (likely to be primarily fibre based) as the key component underpinning whatever access technology delivers the service (fixed or wireless). This infrastructure build will extend to locations in every county in the State as having no existing or planned enabling fibre network. It will be part of an end-to-end strategy that will address all parts of Ireland that cannot access commercial high speed broadband services.

A comprehensive mapping exercise is underway in my Department, working closely with telecommunications service providers. This exercise will identify those areas that will require a State intervention. I have published a county-by-county list of towns and villages which have already been identified for a fibre build-out. This list is available on my Department's website, . This is an indicative list and is subject to the completion of the mapping exercise. Further locations may be identified as this process continues. Similarly, it may be determined that some locations on the list will be addressed by the commercial sector and will therefore not require a State intervention. I would point out that the EU Commission's guidelines for the application of State aid rules precludes Member States from intervening in regions in which private investors have demonstrated plans to roll out their own infrastructure within the following three years.

I have recently launched a stakeholder consultation on the implementation of the State-led intervention. This consultation, among other things, seeks views on the proposed criteria to be used in finalising those locations which require a State intervention. The outcome of this consultation will enable finalisation of the mapping exercise, which I expect will be concluded in the autumn.

In tandem with the completion of the mapping exercise, intensive design and planning work is ongoing in my Department with a view to producing a detailed end to end strategy for the State led intervention. As part of this process consideration will be given to appropriate measures to respond to aggregated community demand for services. It is my intention to conduct a full public consultation on the outcome of the mapping process and the proposed strategy once finalised.

Engagement with industry is therefore ongoing and is likely to intensify over the coming months. Separately, my Department is continuing to meet with industry to address practical measures aimed at facilitating commercial deployment of broadband infrastructure services. Issues such as road openings and planning have been progressed as part of this initiative. It is planned to publish recommendations on open access fibre ducting and interior cabling for new residential buildings later this year, which should further facilitate deployment of services. Industry is also working with the Department in the rollout of various initiatives under the National Digital Strategy.

Through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, I am committed to ensuring that all citizens and businesses can participate fully in a digitally enabled society.

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