Written Answers. - Communications Sector.

John Gormley

Question:

299 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Public Enterprise when she will introduce legislation on local loop unbundling; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19425/00]

John Gormley

Question:

300 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Public Enterprise if proposed legislation on local loop unbundling will encompass the cable television companies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19426/00]

John Gormley

Question:

301 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Public Enterprise if she will make a statement on XDSL technology and its impact on the Irish consumer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19427/00]

Nora Owen

Question:

319 Mrs. Owen asked the Minister for Public Enterprise if her attention has been drawn to the concerns of the Communications Workers Union about a new EU regulation concerning local loop unbundling; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20127/00]

Michael Ring

Question:

324 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Public Enterprise her views on local loop unbundling; the current position with this issue in Europe; and the Government's view in this regard. [20383/00]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 299, 300, 301, 319 and 324 together.

On 11 September 2000 I published a consultation documentation document entitled Outline Legislative Proposals in relation to the Regulation of the Communications Sector. Among other things, this contains proposals for a provision mandating the unbundling of the local loop. Following examination of the submissions received in the consultation I will be finalising the legislative proposals for submission shortly to Government for approval. It is hoped to have the Bill published in the new year. In parallel with this, the EU Commission published on 12 July 2000 a draft regulation on unbundled access to the local loop. The draft text is being examined by Council and the European Parliament at present and it is expected that the regulation will come into effect on 31 December 2000. The proposals contained in the consultation document are complementary to the draft provisions in the regulation.

The scope of both sets of proposals is limited to dealing with unbundling of the copper local loop of those operators identified as having significant market power, SMP, in the fixed public telephone network market. In Ireland's case this, as of now, means Eircom. The proposals do not cover networks of cable television companies. While steps are being taken by cable operators to upgrade their networks, they are not yet seen as having the same functionality and ubiquity as the copper local loop. However, this does not mean that they will not be obliged to offer access to their networks at some future stage should the conditions at the time justify such an obligation. The draft legislative proposals which I published recently include provisions enabling the proposed Commission for Communications Regulation to designate markets, where justified, and impose regulatory obligations on operators deemed to have significant market power in such markets. The European Commission has also published draft directives with similar provisions.
Unbundled access to the local loop allows new entrants to compete with SMP operators in offering high bit data transmission services for continuous Internet access and for multimedia applications based on digital subscriber line, DSL, technology as well as voice telephony services. This will be done using XDSL technology which will enable customers to have access to a world-class infrastructure and a wide range of services, thereby enhancing Ireland's competitive position on the international stage.
Finally, I can confirm that I am aware of the concerns being expressed by the Communications Workers Union in relation to the proposed EU regulation on unbundled access to the local loop. I have received copies of the CWU's circular letter on the issue from a number of public representatives seeking my views on the matters raised and I will be responding in detail to these shortly.