Considerable progress has been made in recent years in both the coverage and speeds of national broadband infrastructure, with a multiplicity of commercial operators, providing services over a diverse range of technology platforms.
The Government has also undertaken a number of initiatives, including the National Broadband Scheme and the Rural Broadband Scheme, to bring basic broadband services to those parts of the country where commercial operators have been unable to offer services. 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.
In addition to consumer services, there are State-funded Metropolitan Area Networks throughout County Cork, specifically in Bantry, Blarney, Carrigaline, Charleville, Cork City, Dunmanway, Fermoy, Kanturk, Midleton, Mitchelstown, Passage West, Ringaskiddy, Skibbereen and Youghal. These networks provide high capacity fibre connectivity for businesses and telecoms operators in the region.
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.
Specifically, it commits to:70Mbps to 100Mbps available from the commercial market operators to more than half of the population by 2015; at least 40Mbps, and in many cases faster speeds, to at least a further 20% and potentially as much as 35% of the population; and a minimum of 30Mbps for every remaining home and business in the country.
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 above, to ensure that all parts of Ireland, including, Whitechurch County Cork will have at least 30Mbps connectivity.