Tuesday, 10 November 2020
Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment
National Broadband Plan
136. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his engagements to date with National Broadband Ireland regarding the feasibility of accelerating aspects of the planned roll-out of the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35124/20]
213. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the position regarding the delivery of rural broadband; and the steps he will take to accelerate this in view of the changing nature of working in rural Ireland due to Covid-19. [34782/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 136 and 213 together.
The National Broadband Plan (NBP) State led Intervention will be delivered by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) under a contract signed last November to roll out a high speed and future proofed broadband network within the Intervention Area which covers 1.1 million people living and working in the over 544,000 premises, including almost 100,000 businesses and farms along with 695 schools.
The NBP network will offer users a high speed broadband service with a minimum download speed of 500Mbps from the outset. This represents an increase from the 150Mbps committed to under the Contract. The deployment plan forecasts premises passed in all counties within the first 2 years and over 90% of premises in the State having access to high speed broadband within the next four years.
As of 4 November, design work is complete or on-going in target townlands across 25 counties and steady progress is being made with almost 122,000 premises surveyed to date which is ahead of the full year survey target of 120,000 that had been projected by the company. This activity involves physically walking the routes and documenting images, notes and measurements of the poles, cables and underground ducts in each area. This is informing design solutions for provision of the fibre network. This detailed design is then used to initiate the ‘make ready’ project with eir for the area, where eir ensure any poles and ducts being reused are fit for purpose. It is also used to initiate works with the subcontractors deploying the actual fibre in the area.
The first fibre to the home connections are expected next month in Carrigaline, Co Cork and they will be subject to technical testing and validation prior to a wider release of the area. I am advised that from the end of January retailers will be able to resell the service and householders in these areas will be able to order high speed broadband provided via the NBI network.
Further details are available on specific areas through the NBI website which provides a facility for any premises within the intervention area to register their interest in being provided with deployment updates through its website . Individuals who register with this facility will receive regular updates on progress by NBI on delivering the network and specific updates related to their own premises when works are due to commence
Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are a key element of the NBP providing high speed broadband in every county in advance of the roll out of the fibre to the home network. As of 30 October, 187 BCP sites have been installed by NBI with 59 sites now connected with high speed broadband connectivity. The high speed broadband service will be switched on in BCP locations through 'service provider' contracts managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development for publicly available sites and by the Department of Education and Skills for schools.
School BCPs will be provided with high speed broadband, for educational use only and some 20 schools have been connected with high speed broadband of which 6 are now live with an internet service. My Department will work with the Department of Education and Skills to prioritise the remaining schools to be connected over the term of the NBP. Further details can be found at .
While substantial progress has been made to date, the Covid 19 pandemic has had an impact on the delivery of the fibre network arising from, among other things, travel restrictions and availability of accommodation for contractors across Ireland; access to island and some buildings such as schools and GAA halls which form part of the BCP initiative; and supply chain and logistic delays. The extent of this impact is currently being assessed and NBI has committed to put in place measures to mitigate the impact in as far as possible. The Covid 19 pandemic has also highlighted the importance of good reliable broadband to ensure that citizens across Ireland can avail of remote working, education and other essential online facilities. This is reflected in the commitments in the Programme for Government where delivery of the National Broadband Plan will be a key enabler to many of the policies envisaged particularly around increased levels of remote working.
The Programme for Government has committed to seek to accelerate the roll out of the National Broadband Plan. In this regard, my Department continues to engage with NBI to explore the feasibility of accelerating aspects of this rollout to establish the possibility of bringing forward premises which are currently scheduled in years 6 and 7 of the current plan to an earlier date. NBI has now established a dedicated team to investigate acceleration of the rollout from its current contracted schedule of seven years. Substantial work has been completed by this team to date with further actions scheduled over coming months. Exploring the potential to accelerate the network rollout is being undertaken in parallel with the measures required to mitigate delays arising as a result of Covid-19.