Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Questions (409)

James Bannon

Question:

409. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason his Department’s website is misleading in relation to the delivering of broadband to certain parts of County Longford, as it states that broadband is available in areas where in fact, it is not; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10267/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

In terms of telecommunications policy, my Department plays a key role in providing a supportive legislative and regulatory environment within which competition can flourish and private sector investment can take place. The Government has undertaken a number of initiatives to bring broadband to those parts of the country where operators have been unable to offer services on a commercial basis. In this connection, my Department provides a range of information on its website in relation to the provision of broadband

Ireland’s telecommunications market has been liberalised since 1999 and since then has developed into a well-regulated market, supporting a multiplicity of commercial operators, providing services over a diverse range of technology platforms. Details of broadband services available on a County-by-County basis can be found on the website of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) at www.callcosts.ie.

The State only becomes involved in the provision of services in instances of clear market failure, such as in the case of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) and the Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS). Prior to the commencement of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) a detailed mapping exercise was carried out to determine those areas that would be included in the Scheme and those which, by virtue of being already substantially served by existing broadband suppliers, could not be included. Under EU State aid and competition rules, the NBS is restricted to providing a basic service and is prohibited from providing a service in served areas where to do so would give rise to an unacceptable level of market distortion. In County Longford, NBS services are available within 11 of its 55 Electoral Divisions, details of which can be found are on my Department’s website at http://www.dcenr.gov.ie/NR/rdonlyres/67F5C8D1-CFEB-4C0B-BC61-C9C2C0927AD0/0/Longford.pdf.

The Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS) was launched in 2011 in recognition of the fact that despite the widespread availability of broadband throughout Ireland, there still remained individual premises that were unable to receive broadband provision. This Scheme, which is now closed, was aimed at making a basic broadband service available to un-served premises in rural areas, not already covered by the NBS. Commercial service providers were in a position to offer services to all applicants from County Longford under the Scheme who agreed to engage with them. Relevant details in relation to County Longford can be found on my Department’s website at the following link

http://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Communications/Communications+Development/Rural+Broadband+Scheme/Rural+Broadband+Scheme.htm.

In addition to consumer services, a State-funded Metropolitan Area Network, which provides high capacity fibre connectivity for businesses and telecoms operators in the region, is located in Longford town. Under the 100Mbps broadband to post-primary schools project, which is jointly funded by my Department and the Department of Education and Skills (DES), the nine second level schools in County Longford have been connected.

The Government’s National Broadband Plan, which I published in August last, aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed services of at least 30Mbps are available to all of our citizens and businesses, well in advance of the EU’s target date of 2020, and that significantly higher speeds are available to as many homes and businesses as possible. Ireland is now therefore moving to a new phase of public and private sector investment in broadband in Ireland which will see significantly improved speeds delivered across the country.

The National Broadband Plan commits the Government to investing in areas where high speed services are not commercially viable and will not be provided by the market. This will ensure that citizens or businesses, wherever they are located, have a broadband connection which meets their needs to interact effectively with society and business in a global digital environment.

I would reiterate that the Government remains committed to the delivery of the speeds referred to in the Plan, to ensure that all parts of Ireland, including County Longford, will have at least 30Mbps connectivity.