Tuesday, 10 February 2004

Questions (215)

Gerard Murphy


291 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when broadband will be available in Kanturk, Charleville, Millstreet and Newmarket, County Cork. [3732/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources)

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private companies operating in a fully liberalised market regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. The Government recognises the importance of a balanced regional roll-out of broadband and, in this regard, is taking a series of initiatives to support and complement investment by the private companies operating in the market.

An indicative €200 million has been set aside for the current programme of broadband infrastructure developments under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. This includes funding for 19 metropolitan area networks in towns and cities across the country, the extension of digital subscriber lines by both Eircom and Esat BT, the construction of a third national fibre trunk network by the ESB, and other regional broadband investment initiatives.

In my recent announcement of the broadband action plan, I outlined the proposals to stimulate broadband-capable infrastructural investment throughout Ireland. The key elements of the plan include the provision of broadband infrastructure in more than 90 towns with a population of 1,500 people using community broadband exchanges and strategic fibre. Both Kanturk and Charleville are such towns. A new group broadband scheme, similar to the group water schemes, is proposed for smaller communities to pool their demand and secure high speed connectivity from a range of service providers, with grant assistance from the Government under the scheme.

A multi-annual budget of €140 million has been committed to the broadband action plan in partnership with the local authorities and in co-operation with the telecoms industry here. Operational details for the broadband action plan are now being finalised, and I expect to be able to make a full announcement shortly.

The dedicated website www.broadband.gov.ie which was launched today, will allow broadband consumers to register their interest and to see the details of prices and availability of broadband services in their area. It is possible to obtain broadband services anywhere in Ireland at the moment, using one of the satellite and wireless service providers such as Amocom Satellite, Digiweb, Media Sat, South West Regional Authority or applied Dot Solutions Limited. A full list of approved providers can be obtained from the www.comreg.ie website or telephone 01-804 6900.