I thank Deputy Lawless. I look forward to his next term in the vineyard of policy ideas. He worked very effectively on the digital transformation that we need to achieve so I look forward to continuing to work with him on that.
Rolling out the national broadband plan, NBP, will be central to that. This plan will provide high-speed broadband to the 1.1 million people living and working in the nearly 540,000 premises, including almost 100,000 businesses and farms and 695 schools, where commercial operators currently will not commit to deliver the service.
The State-led intervention will be delivered by National Broadband Ireland, NBI, under a contract signed on 19 November 2019. The NBP network will offer users a high-speed broadband service with a minimum download speed of 150 Mbps from the outset. By the end of next year, National Broadband Ireland plans to pass about 115,000 premises, with between 70,000 and 100,000 passed each year thereafter until roll-out is completed. All counties will see premises passed in the first two years and more than 90% of premises in the State will have access to high-speed broadband within the next four years.
Design work is complete or ongoing in target townlands across 17 counties and steady progress is being made, with more than 40,000 premises surveyed to date. This survey work is feeding into detailed designs for each deployment area and the laying of fibre should commence shortly with the first fibre to the home connections expected around December of this year.
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of good broadband to ensuring that citizens across Ireland can avail of remote working, education and other essential online facilities. Recognising this, the programme for Government commits to seeking to accelerate the roll-out of the national broadband plan. The programme for Government also recognises that the NBP will be a key enabler to many of the policies envisaged, particularly around increased levels of remote working.
My Department is currently engaging with NBI to explore the feasibility of accelerating aspects of the NBP roll-out and to bring premises which are scheduled for connection in years 6 and 7 of the current plan forward to an earlier date. These discussions are ongoing and a preliminary position will be arrived at by the end of the summer. It is premature at this point to speculate on what premises may benefit from this potential change, other than to say that those premises currently scheduled for the latter end of the roll-out are the focus of the analysis.