Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Questions (325)

Michael Healy-Rae


325. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the proposals being put in place to improve broadband in Lauragh, Killarney, County Kerry. [11336/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

In December 2008, my Department entered into a contract with Hutchison 3G Ireland Ltd (“3”) for the delivery of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS), following the conclusion of a competitive dialogue procurement process. The objective of the NBS is to deliver broadband to certain target areas in Ireland in which broadband services were deemed to be insufficient. Since October 2010, “3” has made broadband services available in all of the 1,028 Electoral Divisions (ED) designated to be covered under the Scheme. Lauragh, Co. Kerry is included in the NBS and broadband services are available to all residents and businesses who seek a service in the area.

Following the recent contractual upgrade to the NBS mobile broadband product specifications, the minimum download speed increased from 1.6Mbps to 2.3Mbps while the minimum upload speeds increased from 1.2Mbps to 1.4Mbps, subject to a maximum contention ratio of 18:1. The combined data allowance increased from 25GB to 40GB. As foreseen in the NBS contract, “3” may, for technical reasons associated with the location of the premises, deploy a satellite solution in a limited number of cases.

My Department has put in place robust monitoring arrangements to ensure that the NBS network delivers the minimum specified service or better to all users. Performance delivery data, which is submitted to my Department on a monthly basis, or as required, is critically analysed. The monitoring arrangements provide information on a wide range of key indicators including, the broadband excess availability in each cell of the network, the number of customers resident in that cell and actual contention and latency values. Utilisation thresholds are set for each element of the network and upgrades of the network and its capacity are automatically triggered at contractually agreed levels of traffic to ensure that the quality of the broadband service is maintained.

My Department is satisfied that the NBS service supplied by “3” in the Lauragh area, is within the contractually agreed specification of the scheme. “3” have advised my officials that there are no current plans for additional infrastructure or network upgrades in the area. Any NBS customer experiencing problems with the NBS service, in the Lauragh area, can contact 3’s customer care centre 24 hours a day 7 days a week by phone at 1913 (free of charge) or via email to nbssupport@three.ie. A team of field engineers has been established to address NBS specific maintenance issues at customers’ premises.

My Department has a role where customers have fully utilised the established complaints process and consider that their complaint has not been resolved. My officials operate a dedicated NBS mailbox, which NBS customers can contact by email at nationalbroadbandscheme@dcenr.gov.ie, with any comments or complaints they may have about their NBS service.

The combination of private investment and State interventions means that Ireland has met the EU Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe target of having a basic broadband service available to all areas by 2013, and the focus is now on accelerating the roll out of high speed services. 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.

During the preparation of Ireland’s National Broadband Plan, the commercial market operators indicated that they expect to provide 70Mbps to 100Mbps services to 50% of the population by 2015. The commercial sector is already making these investments in high speed services, particularly in urban and semi-urban areas. The Government is also committed in the Plan to investing in areas where high speed services are not commercially viable and will not be provided by the market.

My Department is making preparations to commence a formal national mapping exercise to identify where the market is expected to succeed and fail in the delivery of high speed broadband over the coming years. This will inform the level of Government interaction that may be required and the areas that need to be targeted for a State-led investment. It will also form a critical input to an EU State Aid application in respect of any State-led intervention.

Through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, we are committed to increasing the availability of next generation speeds significantly, with a view to ensuring that all citizens and business can participate fully in a digitally enabled society. 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 Lauragh, Co. Kerry, will have at least 30Mbps connectivity.