Tuesday, 29 November 2016
Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
National Broadband Plan
679. To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when the latest broadband development programme can deliver the much required service in all areas throughout the country with particular reference to County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37736/16]
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 through a State intervention in those areas where commercial investment has not been fully demonstrated. 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 within the State Intervention Area, comprising over 750,000 premises including approximately 20,300 premises in Co Kildare, covering 100,000km of road network and 96% of the land area of Ireland.
Intensive dialogue with bidders is continuing and the three bidders have indicated that they are proposing a predominantly fibre-to-the-home solution. Householders and businesses may get speeds not just of 30 megabits per second but potentially up to 1000 megabits per second with businesses potentially availing of symmetrical upload and download speeds.
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. In addition, bidders need adequate time to 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 on timelines at this juncture, given that discussions are on-going 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 that will transform society, akin to rural electrification in the last century.
During the Department's extensive stakeholder consultations in 2015, telecommunications service providers indicated a 3-5 year timeline to rollout a network of the scale envisaged under the NBP. As part of the competitive process, the Department will engage with winning bidder(s) on the best rollout 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 rollout 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 rollout 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 rollout 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.
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 County Kildare. Members of the public can view whether their premises in Kildare are in the BLUE or AMBER area by accessing the High Speed Broadband Map and entering their Eircode.
I would encourage citizens in County Kildare who cannot access high speed broadband services to contact my Department directly at email@example.com, quoting their address and Eircode, and giving details of providers they have contacted with a view to obtaining services. This information will assist my Department to keep track of progress in those areas so that high speed broadband solutions can be found in parallel with the State Intervention high speed broadband network roll-out.