I refer the Deputy to a number of publications that give an overview on world-wide developments in the area of broadband and wireless technologies: OECD: The Development of Broadband Access in OECD Countries 29 October 2001; OECD: Broadband Infrastructure Deployment: the role of Government Assistance 22 May 2002; International Telecommunications Union: Promoting Broadband background paper April 2003; ComReg: Future Delivery of Broadband in Ireland – ref 02/79.
The application and provision of new communications and broadband technologies in Ireland is a matter for the private sector companies that operate in a fully liberalised telecommunications market and the companies operating here continually introduce new technologies to the Irish market as appropriate.
The State provides assistance, where appropriate, to accelerate the deployment of faster and cheaper communications services throughout the country by the private sector.
Under the National Development Plan 2000-2006, approximately €200 million was allocated under the two regional communications and e-commerce measures. Funding under these measures is intended to leverage and accelerate investment in competitive advanced information and communications infrastructure and services.
The broadband programme announced in March 2002 will result in the construction of open access metropolitan area fibre optic networks in upwards of 19 towns around the country. By reducing the cost of access to fibre rings, these networks will facilitate the provision by the private sector of "always on", low cost and high speed Internet access to consumers, educational establishments, industry and business.
It is expected that these projects will be completed progressively over the next two years at a cost in the region of €60 million. Construction of networks has begun in Cork, Galway and Mayo and further projects will commence once contracts have been completed.
My Department is also exploring the potential of satellite and wireless based technologies to promote the deployment of broadband access in Ireland, particularly in remote areas. Pilot projects utilising VSAT and wireless LAN technologies in diverse user communities, to assess their suitability as a platform for the delivery of advanced broadband services in the regions are currently under way. WLAN is a technology that was originally developed for in-house use, such as office local area networks but is increasingly seen as an alternative technology in the delivery of broadband services. Five projects have been recommended for funding of €260,510. It is intended that the projects will run from January to October 2003.