The provision of telecommunications services including broadband services, is a matter in the first instance for the companies which now operate in a fully liberalised market. My responsibility is for public policy in the sector within which these companies operate. The widest possible availability of competitive services has traditionally been an important objective of telecommunications policy. I have, in recent years, put in place a number of initiatives, which seek to address gaps in communications infrastructure in Ireland, particularly by bringing broadband connectivity to regional and rural areas. These initiatives pick up on a number of the recommendations outlined in the e-Europe action plan.
Under the National Development Plan, 1994-1999, 26 million was made available to support the roll-out of broadband to the regions. Thirteen projects which rolled-out broadband nationwide were supported and are no nearing completion.
This figure has been significantly increased under the National Development Plan, 2000-06, to 200 million. A first call for proposals was run last year and on foot of submissions received I signed 12 contracts at the beginning of the year which will result in additional investment in the regions in broadband infrastructure. The projects involved will be completed over the next two years and will entail overall investment of 200 million euros in broadband leveraged from grant assistance of approximately 65 million.
Question No. 198 answered with Question No. 191.