Written answers

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

Rural Broadband Scheme

Photo of Billy TimminsBilly Timmins (Wicklow, Renua Ireland)
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597. To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress of the rural broadband scheme since its introduction when a company (details supplied) was awarded the contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44730/15]

Photo of Alex WhiteAlex White (Dublin South, Labour)
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Ireland’s telecommunications market has been liberalised since 1999 and has developed into a well-regulated market, supporting a multiplicity of commercial operators providing services over a diverse range of technology platforms. The State is not a service provider and can only intervene, subject to EU competition rules, to ensure access to broadband services in areas where the competitive market has failed to deliver such services.

My Department’s National Broadband Scheme (NBS), which was delivered by Hutchison 3G Ireland Ltd (“3”), is an example of such an intervention. The Scheme operated from December 2008 to August 2014, and ensured the availability of a basic and affordable retail broadband service to some 238,000 fixed residences and businesses located in 1,028 Electoral Divisions across 25 Counties. Combined with private investment, it allowed Ireland to meet the EU Commission’s “Digital Agenda for Europe” target of having a basic broadband service available to all areas by 2013.

The Government’s National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure that every citizen and business, regardless of location, has access to a high quality, high speed broadband service. This is being delivered through a combination of commercial and State investment.

A key principle of the NBP is to support and stimulate commercial investment through policy and regulatory measures. Commercial investment since the publication of the NBP has considerably exceeded expectations. In 2012, industry committed to providing high speed broadband to 1m addresses in Ireland by 2015, with top speeds ranging from 70Mbps to 100 Mbps. Today, cable is delivering speeds of up to 240 Mbps to over 700,000 addresses and eFibre services of up to 100 Mbps are available to circa 1.2m addresses.

Legislation enacted in 2014 has enabled the use of ESB’s national distribution system to deliver fibre services. This has resulted in SIRO entering the market, adding increased competition for ultra-fast services. Two companies are now investing in fibre-to-the-home services. This commercial activity represents a significant step-change in the quality of broadband connectivity now available to many business and residential customers.

The Government is committed to a State-led intervention into those areas where it has been demonstrated that industry investment will not be forthcoming. Last November I published a national high speed coverage map for 2016.

The areas marked BLUE on the map represent those areas that will have access to commercial high speed broadband services. The AMBER areas show the target areas for the State intervention. The map allows all members of the public, be they business or residential, to see whether their premises/home will have access to commercial high speed broadband services by end 2016 or whether they will be included in the Government's proposed intervention.

Over 40 responses were received following the publication of the NBP proposed Intervention Strategy in July last. Non-confidential versions of these submissions are being published and can be accessed at .

I expect to proceed to formal procurement before the end of the year.

It is anticipated that speeds of at least 30Mbps will be also delivered through the Government's intervention and the network will be designed to cater for future increased demand from consumers and business.

The Government is determined to ensure that the network is built out as quickly as possible and engagement with industry stakeholders has indicated that this could be achieved within 3-5 years of the contract award.

In this context, the NBP proposes that through the combination of commercial investment and State intervention, 85% of addresses in Ireland will have access to high speed services by 2018 with an ambition of 100% coverage by end of 2020.


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