Written answers

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

Rural Broadband Scheme

Photo of Aindrias MoynihanAindrias Moynihan (Cork North West, Fianna Fail)
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418. To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he will provide a broadband service in Cloughduv, County Cork, and the surrounding areas. [32858/16]

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)
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The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to deliver high speed services to every city, town, village and individual premises in Ireland. The Programme for Government commits to the delivery of the NBP as a matter of priority.  This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment by the telecommunications sector and a State intervention in those areas where commercial investment has not been fully demonstrated. The Programme for a Partnership Government commits to the delivery of the NBP as a matter of priority.  The formal procurement process for the State Intervention commenced in December 2015.

The High Speed Broadband Map, which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie shows the extent of the State Intervention area:

- The areas marked BLUE represent those areas where commercial providers are either currently delivering or have previously indicated plans to deliver high speed broadband services.

- The areas marked AMBER on the High Speed Broadband Map represent the target areas for the State Intervention which are the subject of the current procurement process.

The map provides information on a county by county basis with a breakdown of coverage across the townlands in every county including Co Cork.

The maps shows that 45% of Cloughduv in the townland of Coolmucky and 13% of the nearby townland of Ryecourt falls within the AMBER area and will therefore be included in the State intervention procurement process. Up to 55% of Cloughduv in the townland of Coolmucky and 87% of the townland of Ryecourt is included in the BLUE area where commercial providers are either currently delivering or previously indicated that they have plans to deliver high speed broadband services. Individuals can check whether their premises is in a BLUE or an AMBER area by scrolling through the map online or entering their Eircode.

While I cannot compel any operator to provide services to a particular premises, my Department continues to actively monitor the deployment plans in the BLUE area and direct feedback from consumers is important. In this regard, if customers in Cloughduv County Cork cannot access high speed broadband services, I would encourage them to contact my Department directly at broadband@dcenr.gov.ie, quoting their address and Eircode, and giving details of providers they have contacted with a view to obtaining services.  The roll-out of services by commercial operators is being kept under constant review by the Department to ensure that all premises can get access to services, either through commercial investment or the State intervention.

The Department is now in a formal procurement process to select a company or companies who will roll out a new high speed broadband network in the State Intervention Area comprising over 750,000 premises in Ireland including over 85,000 premises in County Cork covering 100,000km of road network and 96% of the land area of Ireland. Since bidders were invited to participate in dialogue with the Department, there have been approximately 150 hours of meetings, with considerable more interaction to follow over the coming months. The three bidders in the procurement process have indicated that they are proposing a predominantly fibre-to-the-home solution for rural Ireland under the National Broadband Plan intervention.  Householders and businesses may potentially get speeds not just of 30 megabits per second but up to 1000 megabits per second, with businesses potentially availing of symmetrical upload and download speeds. This is a solution that will endure for 25 years and beyond.  

Earlier this year, before I came into office, the Department announced that it would be June 2017 before contract(s) were awarded under the NBP. The bidders in the process have recently indicated that they may need more time to conclude the procurement process. The timing of each stage of the procurement continues to be dependent on a range of factors including the complexities that may be encountered by the procurement team, and bidders, during the procurement process . Bidders need adequate time to prepare detailed proposals and their final formal bids and get the relevant shareholder and funding approvals at key stages of the process. It is also important to ensure that risks in this multi-million euro procurement are carefully managed. I do not propose to comment any further at this juncture, given that discussions are ongoing in the procurement process. I can assure the Deputy however, that the procurement process is being intensively managed, to ensure an outcome that delivers a future-proofed network that serves homes and businesses across Ireland, for at least 25 years. The Government considers the NBP to be one of the most significant investments in rural Ireland for decades, and one which will transform society, akin to rural electrification in the last century.

During the Department's extensive stakeholder consultations in 2015, telecommunications service providers indicated that it could take 3-5 years to roll out a network of the scale envisaged under the NBP. It is however open to bidder(s) to suggest more aggressive timescales as part of their bids.

As part of the competitive process, the Department will engage with winning bidder(s) on the best roll-out strategy, in order to target areas of particularly poor service, business needs and-or high demand. This will need to be balanced with the most efficient network roll-out plan. A prioritisation programme will be put in place in this regard, in consultation with the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. A detailed roll-out plan for the network will be published once contract(s) are in place.

The Programme for Government also commits to measures to assist in the roll-out of the network once a contract is awarded. In this regard, Minister Humphreys is leading on the establishment of two regional action groups, working with Local Authorities, Local Enterprise Offices and other relevant agencies to help accelerate the broadband network build in rural Ireland, once a contract(s) has been awarded.


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