Written answers

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment

National Broadband Plan

Thomas Gould (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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244. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the roll-out plan for the national broadband scheme. [44547/20]

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party)
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The High Speed Broadband Map, which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie , shows the areas which will be included in the National Broadband Plan (NBP) State led intervention as well as areas targeted by commercial operators. The map is colour coded and searchable by address and Eircode. Premises in the AMBER area will be provided with high speed broadband through the State led Intervention, the contract for which was signed in November 2019 with National Broadband Ireland (NBI).

The BLUE area represents those areas where commercial providers are either currently delivering or have plans to deliver high speed broadband services.

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.

I am advised by NBI that, as of 11 December 2020, over 149,000 premises across all counties have been surveyed 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. Surveying is the first step towards delivering the new fibre network and involves physically walking the routes and documenting images, notes and measurements of the poles, cables and underground ducts in each area. This informs design solutions for provision of the fibre network to each and every premises in the surveyed area and leads to detailed designs. Survey data is also needed to initiate pre-works which pave the way for the deploying of fibre. Pre-works involve construction of new duct routes, erection of poles, building chambers and tree trimming. On completion of these pre-works, the main construction works can commence. This involves deploying fibre overhead on poles and in underground ducts, splicing of fibre, and unblocking of ducts. Once the main construction works are completed and the appropriate level of testing has been undertaken, the fibre network can be commissioned and end users can order their connection.

Further details are available on specific premises 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 www.nbi.ie. 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. I am aware that concerns have been raised regarding the level of information available on the deployment of the NBI network and I am advised that NBI is working to provide more detail on its website, with a rolling update on network build plans.

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 14 December, 221 publicly accessible BCP sites have been installed by NBI and the high speed broadband service will be switched on in these locations through service provider contracts managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development. It is expected that some 200 public access BCP sites and 70 primary school BCPs will be connected by the end of Q1 2021.

School BCPs will be provided with high speed broadband, for educational use only, through a service provider contract managed by the Department of Education and Skills. Some 60 schools have been installed with high speed broadband for educational access and 25 of these are now connected and live. 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. In this regard, an acceleration of this aspect of the National Broadband Plan has just been announced which will see some 679 primary schools connected to high speed broadband by 2022, well ahead of the original target delivery timeframe of 2026. Further details are available on the NBI website at .

Ruairi Ó Murchú (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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245. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he is considering plans to extend the broadband connection points programme to additional primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44576/20]

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party)
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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 14 December, 221  publicly accessible BCP sites have been installed by NBI and the high speed broadband service will be switched on in these locations through service provider contracts managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Department of Education for schools. Further details can be found at . The schools BCP initiative applies to primary schools in the intervention area. The intervention area was determined following a mapping exercise to identify as far as reasonably possible those areas where State intervention is required to ensure high speed broadband is available.

Some 70 schools across the country in the Intervention Area will become Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) by the end of Q1 2021, receiving 150mb high-speed connectivity for educational access. My Department continues to work with the Department of Education to prioritise other schools with no high speed broadband, within the intervention area, for connection over the term of the NBP. In this regard, an acceleration of this aspect of the National Broadband Plan was recently announced which will see some 679 primary schools connected to high speed broadband by the end of  2022, well ahead of the original target delivery timeframe of 2026. The connections to high speed broadband will be a mixture of BCP technology and fibre to the premises, depending on the wider deployment plan with the quickest method being utilised. Under the originally-planned rollout, some schools would have had to wait up to seven years for connection - now, all schools will be connected within two years. Further details are available on the NBI website at .

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