Thursday, 14 October 2021
Department of Rural and Community Development
36. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the expected timeframe for the establishment and operation of the mobile and broadband taskforce; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50164/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 30, 35 and 36 together.
On foot of the initial scoping work of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce, 40 actions were identified and assigned to the Taskforce’s Implementation Group to pursue. Over the course of the 2016-2019 work programme, the Taskforce delivered more than 70 targeted actions. Among these were the addition of more than 1,000km of ducting along our national roads, the introduction of ComReg’s outdoor mobile coverage map and a range of consumer protection and advice measures.
The last formal meeting of the Taskforce was the 2019 Annual Stakeholder Forum, 11 October 2019. In the interim, I and my officials have continued to engage closely with all Taskforce members and interested stakeholders to ensure that the good work of the Taskforce continues and is built upon, for example via the continued operation of the Joint Utilities Local Authority User Forum which is the primary means of addressing issues between local authorities, utilities and industry. The lines of communication between former Taskforce members remain open and productive and good progress has been made on a number of fronts.
Notwithstanding this, it is my preference that the Taskforce would reconvene at the earliest possible opportunity. Given the scope of opportunity presented by several recent developments, including the publication of Our Rural Future, it is now the right time to formally re-establish the Taskforce and progress those issues that will have most impact.
Officials from my Department and the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications are thus currently finalising proposals to guide the future direction and work programme of the Taskforce and engagement with industry has also commenced in this regard.