One of the principal factors which affects the uptake of broadband services is the price at which they are available. The price is in large part determined by the supply of the infrastructure and services which, in a fully liberated communications market is the responsibility of the private sector companies offering these services. The ODTR also has a role in regulating the prices at which broadband is made available. 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 Irish telecommunications policy.
However, recognising that there are areas of the country that are not as economically attractive for firms to invest in infrastructure and services, my Department has undertaken a number of initiatives to facilitate the roll-out of advanced communications infrastructure which seek to address gaps in communications infrastructure in regional Ireland.
In 1999, under the National Development Plan 1994-1999 and INTERREG II, €26 million was made available to support the roll-out of broadband to the regions. Thirteen projects which rolled out broadband nationwide to a value, both public and private funding, of €70 million were supported and are now completed. These projects entailed the roll-out of broadband services in the Border, midlands and west region and the south and east region.
Under the National Development Plan 2000-2006, the figure allocated to telecommunications initiatives was approximately €200 million. Funding under this communications and e-commerce measure of the NDP will be utilised to leverage and accelerate investment in competitive advanced information and communications infrastructure and services which will enhance the potential for the development of electronic commerce facilities and enable the electronic provision of public services, including education services, virtual libraries, welfare and health services.