Ireland's telecommunications market has been fully liberalised since 1999 in accordance with the requirements of binding EU Directives. The market has since 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 in each County, including County Kerry, can be found on ComReg's website at www.callcosts.ie. The State can only intervene to ensure access to broadband services in areas where the competitive market has failed to deliver such services, as in the case of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) and the Rural Broadband Scheme. With basic broadband services widely available across Ireland, 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. Since the publication of the Plan, investments by the commercial sector are underway in both fixed line and mobile high speed broadband services. More detailed information on the broadband products offered by the relevant service providers should be available on their respective websites.
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. In an important milestone towards delivery of this commitment in the Plan, my Department has recently appointed experts to assist in the design, planning and procurement of the State-led investment. My Department is about to embark on a formal mapping exercise to identify the areas of the country to be targeted in the State-led investment under the Government’s National Broadband Plan to ensure the provision of high speed broadband services where the commercial market will not deliver. This exercise will inform an EU State Aids application in respect of the State-led intervention and is a necessary prerequisite for State Aids approval.
Intensive technical, financial and legal preparations including stakeholder engagement will be on-going throughout 2013 with a view to the launch of a procurement process in 2014.
Through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, we are committed to making high speed broadband available nationwide, with a view to ensuring that all citizens and businesses, including those in County Kerry, can participate fully in a digitally enabled society.