Written Answers. - Information Technologies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

196 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Public Enterprise if she will outline the access that Ireland has to digital satellite communication systems; the extent of this access; the cost in this regard; if she has any proposals to extend this capacity in future in the context of world class data and information technology being available to all citizens; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7624/01]

As the Deputy will be aware, I am totally committed to the comprehensive utilisation by Ireland of leading edge data and information technologies, including satellite. I will continue to make this a priority. My Department is in the process of evaluating proposals for a pilot of VSAT technology. The purpose of this pilot scheme is to demonstrate the feasibility of using satellite technology in Ireland, particularly in remote areas at competitive costs.

The Director of Telecommunications Regulation, with my consent, has recently made regulations providing for an important addition to the licensing structure for satellite services in Ireland. The new teleport facilities regulations will facilitate international telecommunications connectivity.

Costs are a matter for commercial negotiation between the various operators and service providers. However, it is anticipated that the increasing availability of additional capacity will have a positive effect in this area.

Ireland also participates in EUTELSAT, the European Telecommunications Satellite Organisation, an intergovernmental body that operates a satellite network for fixed and mobile telecommunications. EUTELSAT was formed to provide international telecommunications links but is now increasingly involved in the provision of high bandwidth data services, which allows for rapid Internet access, and in the provision of broadcast services for both radio and television. I am presently preparing to bring proposals to Government to ratify, on behalf of Ireland, an amended EUTELSAT Convention. The proposed amendments will allow the organisation to develop its position in the fast growing markets for satellite communications services and to adapt to technical, economic and regulatory developments.

Through its participation in both EUTELSAT and INTELSAT, its international equivalent, Ireland is well positioned to maximise the benefits that can be achieved from the expansion of satellite services. Undertakings in Ireland will have equal access to facilities as and when they are developed and become available.