National Broadband Plan

Brendan Smith

Question:

235. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to introduce a universal service obligation in respect of the provision of broadband throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20440/18]

The current EU and national regulatory framework for telecommunications allows for the application of a Universal Service Obligation (USO) and relates solely to voice telephony and Functional Internet Access (28.8 kilobits per second) and is provided for under EU regulatory framework governing telecoms.  This Framework has ensured that householders can get an affordable fixed voice service and functional internet access regardless of where they are located. There is no USO for high speed broadband provision or mobile voice services in Ireland and the Framework does not provide for it. In September 2016, the European Commission published an ambitious proposal for the regulation of the European telecoms sector, which aims to incentivise and encourage increased investment in high speed broadband networks.  I have raised the issue of a USO for high speed broadband at EU level, seeking inclusion of a specific provision in the new framework that would allow Member States to apply a USO for high speed broadband, where such networks are available.  Negotiations on the initiative are continuing at EU level. 

The Government’s National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to deliver high speed broadband to every premises in the country, through a State led intervention in areas where such networks are not available. The winning bidder in the procurement process will be required to build out a wholesale, open access, high speed broadband network. Under a 25 year contract with the Department, they will be required to connect all premises within the Intervention area with a high speed connection (minimum 30 megabits per second download and 6 megabits per second upload).

The NBP will deliver the network that will be required to connect all premises. While USO alone could not be expected to deliver new high speed broadband networks of this scale, I am of the view that where high speed broadband networks are available, USO could provide a very useful tool to ensure that all premises within a network area can get a reliable, quality connection. This is particularly relevant in cities and towns where commercial operators have already deployed high speed networks, but for technical or other reasons some premises still may not be able to obtain services.   

My Department is also in discussion with the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) as to whether a USO may be a viable instrument in instances where a high speed network is available, but individual premises cannot access such services at an affordable price. 

Capital Expenditure Programme

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

236. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the capital allocation across his Department in each of the years 2018 to 2022. [20445/18]

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

237. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his Department's capital allocation for projects underway and projects already tendered or committed to spending contractually. [20462/18]

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

238. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his Department's capital allocation in each of the years 2018 to 2022 disaggregated according to capital allocated to projects underway, projects contractually committed to and projects yet to be initiated. [20479/18]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 236 to 238, inclusive, together.  

My Department will oversee significant capital investment amounting to almost €1.5 billion over the period 2018 to 2022. Annual capital ceilings in respect of this five year period were published in the National Development Plan, as follows: 2018 - €209 million; 2019 - €256 million; 2020 - €297 million; 2021 - €317 million and 2022 - €400 million.

Key capital programmes and schemes being progressed by my Department this year include:

Programme/Scheme

2018 Capital allocation € million

National Broadband Plan 

15.0

Energy Efficiency Schemes - Residential

79.0

Energy Efficiency Schemes - Public Sector/Commercial 

22.4

Deep Retrofit Pilot

5.0

Support Scheme for Renewable Heat

6.0

Electric Vehicles Grant Scheme

9.0

Energy Research

8.3

Geoscience Initiatives

11.7

Landfill Remediation 

11.0

Trading Online Voucher Scheme 

3.0

National Digital Research Centre

3.5

The 2018 capital allocation also includes operational capital for my Department and a number of its agencies, including TG4, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Environment Protection Agency. 

Detailed programme allocations for each of the years 2019 to 2022 will be agreed as part of the annual Estimates process and published in the Revised Estimates Volume, subsequent to each Budget Day. 

During the period to 2022, my Department and its agencies will play a lead role in the delivery of a number of the strategic investment priorities identified in the National Development Plan. 

Delivery of the new high speed broadband network under the National Broadband Plan, which is currently in the final stages of procurement, will ensure that the opportunities presented by the digital transformation are available to every citizen, company and community in Ireland.  

An ambitious programme of climate action measures, including energy-related investments by commercial State companies, will position Ireland on a sustainable trajectory to achieve a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy and society.  The Energy Efficiency Programme, funded by my Department and delivered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, will be significantly expanded to accelerate the contribution of the built environment to the collective effort to reduce emissions.  Schemes targeted at energy efficiency upgrades will include deep retrofitting of housing, commercial and public building stock.

Other key energy measures include the rollout of a new Support Scheme for Renewable Heat and an expansion of the Electric Vehicle Grant Scheme, aimed at promoting the electrification of heat and transport. There will also be increased funding for energy research programmes to accelerate diversification away from fossil fuels to green energy.

Investments will also be focussed on supporting the transition to a circular and resource efficient economy and protecting our environment, while ensuring the sustainable management of our natural resources.

Roads Maintenance Funding

Bernard Durkan

Question:

239. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the requests received by his Department from a county council (details supplied) for funding due to extreme weather events; the funding sought and the works proposed; when the application was submitted; the decision made on the request; the funding allocation made in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20221/18]

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of local authorities, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the Council's own resources supplemented by State road grants.  The selection, prioritisation and implementation of works, including works relating to the impact of severe weather, is also a matter for the local authority.

During the winter of 2013/2014 storms caused significant damage to infrastructure, including roads.  The then Department of Environment, Community and Local Government collated data in respect of the damage and cost estimates in respect of roads repair, coastal protection repair, clean-up, piers and harbours etc. The return from Mayo County Council estimated the cost of the damage to roads at €1.62 million. 

Following on from a Government decision to make additional funding available to assist local authorities in dealing with the damage, funding of €1.62 million was allocated to Mayo County Council in specific severe weather funding and this funding was drawn down over 2014 and 2015.  A further request for additional funding to address storm damage to Achill roads was received in October 2015.  The Council was advised that all available grant funding had been allocated but that the Department would review the position at end year.  Overall the Council drew down severe weather funding of €1,225,890 in 2014 and €437,596 in €2015.

Following severe flooding over the winter of 2015/2016 which resulted in significant damage to roads, the Government also decided to allocate additional funding to local authorities based on initial estimates of the cost of repairs. The Department sought further submissions from local authorities before allocating the severe weather funding.  In total the Department received funding applications totalling €209 million, far exceeding the funding available.   Following the review of the submissions, funding was allocated to each of the local authorities affected by the severe weather in line with the additional funding made available by Government and an amount which had been set aside from the general regional and local road grant allocation.  In the case of Mayo, the Council applied for €7.6 million and was paid €5.5 million.

No severe weather funding was allocated to Mayo County Council in 2017 or to date in 2018.

Ferry Services

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

240. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will investigate with the Marine Survey Office, MSO, if a legal disclaimer system would suffice until such a time as funding can be identified to provide improved landing facilities at a location (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20224/18]

As the Deputy is aware from my replies to recent parliamentary questions and the topical issue debate last week, the Marine Survey Office carried out an assessment of the landing point at Inishmurray Island in 2008.  The "recognised landing point" on the island was deemed wholly unsuitable for landing passengers safely. As a consequence, no passenger licences have been issued which include Inishmurray on their plying limits.

The MSO is a safety regulator. Passenger safety is my first priority here. Once an appropriate landing facility is provided, officials of the Marine Survey office will assess it and any passenger vessel proposing to use the facility with a view to granting the appropriate licence.

Road Network

Dara Calleary

Question:

241. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to review the national secondary classification of a road (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20253/18]

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for the classification of roads as either National or Regional under the Roads Act, 1993.  I am empowered under Section 10 of the 1993 Act to classify any public road as a national or regional road and periodic reviews are undertaken in that regard. A public road, other than one classified by me as a national road or a regional road, is a local road. Road classification needs to follow appropriate and logical criteria and have regard to existing legislative provisions. Careful consideration of such proposals is, therefore, required.

 Should Mayo County Council wish to raise road reclassification issues relating to a particular road, it can do so by writing to the Roads Division of my Department enclosing the following information:

- Road number and name of road or section of road in question including relevant townlands/junctions.

- Reason for reclassification request.

- Map(s) indicating current road classification.

- Map(s) indicating requested road classification.

Any such matters so raised can be considered as part of a wider road classification process.

Sports Capital Programme

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

242. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when the next round of sports capital grants will open for sports organisations; if changes will be made to the scheme in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20298/18]

The 2017 round of the Sports Capital Programme attracted a record 2,320 applications.  In November and December last, Minister Ross and I announced €60 million in allocations to a record 1,800 projects under the 2017 round. A review of the 2017 round of the programme has now been finalised and published on my Department's website, www.dttas.ie. This review highlights  aspects of the 2017 round of the SCP that worked well but also suggests some further improvements which are being considered prior to the next round of the programme opening for applications.  An announcement in relation to the timing of the next round is expected in the coming weeks.