The telecommunications market throughout Ireland has been liberalised since 1999 and thus the delivery of broadband services in any particular region is a matter, in the first instance, for private sector commercial operators who are regulated by the independent regulator, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). Information regarding broadband services on a county basis is available using ComReg's callcosts service, accessible at www.callcosts.ie, which also allows users to compare the costs of home phone, broadband, mobile and combined packages.
My Department has interevened in the open market on occassions where the open market has failed to deliver adequate communications network capacity in particular areas or regions. The Metropolitan Areas Networks (MANs) programme is one such intervention, which provides optic fibre networks in designated towns. They are operated on the Department's behalf by e|net. The installation of telecommunications ducting in Tuam, capable of supporting an optical fibre telecommunications network, is almost complete. The ducting was installed in parallel with a major water distribution and drainage project in the town to take advantage of savings on construction costs. I have asked my officials to liaise directly with e|net to discuss the potential benefits of completing this infrastructure and bringing it into use.
The Government also accepts that the widespread availability of high speed broadband is a key requirement to delivering future economic and social development. This is reflected in a commitment in the Programme for Government to co-invest with the private sector and commercial Semi State sector to provide next generation broadband customer access to every home and business in the State.
The report of the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce (NGBT), which I launched on 2 May last and responses to a public consultation which I commenced at the same event, will have an important role to play in this regard. The public consultation closed in early June and more than 50 responses were received. Building on the NGBT report and the public consultation responses received, it is my intention to bring proposals for a National Broadband Plan to Government shortly with a view to agreeing a comprehensive set of policy actions to underpin the provision of high speed services on a national basis.