Broadband Services Speeds

Questions (486)

Joe McHugh

Question:

486. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will review broadband retention figures that were established with 3, 3.6mbps max on a ratio of 48:1; if he sees an opportunity in taking more bandwidth from a satellite company (details supplied); his views on a person's recent test results; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32171/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The broadband service contracted under National Broadband Scheme (NBS) was designed as a basic, affordable, scalable product in keeping with EU State Aid clearance for the Scheme. Under the terms of the contract which my Department has in place with “3”, the NBS service provider, the NBS mobile wireless service is required to offer minimum download and upload speeds of 2.3Mbps and 1.4Mbps respectively, subject to a maximum contention ratio of 18:1. The NBS satellite service, which is utilised in a small number of cases for technical reasons associated with the location of the premises, offers minimum download and upload speeds of 3.6Mbps and 384 kbps respectively, subject to a maximum contention ratio of 48:1. The NBS satellite service was upgraded in July 2012 and there are no further upgrades foreseen within the NBS contract.

As regards service quality, my Department has well-established monitoring arrangements in place to ensure that the NBS delivers the minimum specified service or better to all users. The NBS contract guarantees service levels and imposes a service credit regime on “3”, with significant financial consequences in the event that minimum specification service levels are not met. The NBS contract also provides that where NBS customers do not receive the minimum guaranteed service, as set out in the terms and conditions of their contract, they are entitled to service rebates.

Should any NBS customer experience problems with the NBS service, they are advised to contact 3’s customer care centre, 24 hours a day 7 days a week, by phone at 1913 (free of charge), via email to nbssupport@three.ie or by post to 3 Customer Services, Hutchison 3G Ireland Limited, PO Box 333, Dublin 2.

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. My Department will then liaise with “3” personnel at its Head Office in Dublin to remedy any service performance issues. In this instance, the person referred to in the Question contacted my officials on Tuesday, 25th June last and the details of their complaint were forwarded directly to “3”. I understand that they, in turn, contacted the customer and have commenced a thorough investigation of the issues raised. My officials will remain in touch with “3” and the customer until such time as the service issues are resolved.

Broadband Services Speeds

Questions (487)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

487. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the quality of broadband services in the EU report carried out for the European Commission by SamKnows Limited, which revealed that Irish broadband users receive only 84.7% of the advertised download speed and 72.5% of the advertised upload speed; if the situation has changed since the report was issued; if not, if he intends to address false advertising of upload and download speeds in the broadband sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32203/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The study undertaken as part of the EU Commission report was competed in March 2012. The report was published in June last. It compares marketed headline speeds for broadband services compared to the speeds experienced by users over cable, fibre and fixed lines in the EU 28, Iceland and Norway.

The comparison across the 30 countries surveyed demonstrates, as a general rule, a common practice of marketing a headline speed of “up to X Mbps”, as a maximum speed which customers can expect. The actual speed available varies for a number of reasons, including the amount of traffic online at any time, any consequential network congestion and distance from any individual premises to the nearest exchange. The actual speeds experienced can also vary depending on the manner in which connections are configured within customers’ premises.

The average download speed accessed in Ireland was above the EU average of 19.47 megabits per second (Mbps) or 74% of marketed speeds. The average upload speed available in Ireland was below the EU average of 6.2 Mbps or 88% of the marketed speeds. Since the survey was undertaken, UPC has rolled out download speeds up to 150 Mbps and upload speeds up to 10 Mbps across its network. More recently, eircom has launched broadband services to make download speeds up to 70 Mbps and upload speeds up to 20 Mbps accessible at 1.2 million premises by 2015. The speeds available in Ireland are therefore increasing since the survey was completed.

The marketing of broadband services in Ireland is governed by the law generally applicable to the sale of goods and services. There is no legislation specific to the marketing of broadband services. The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland, following consultations with the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), and the National Consumer Agency, published guidelines in 2008 on the marketing of broadband services which can be accessed on-line at http://www.asai.ie/documents/ASAI%20ADVICE%20NOTE%20ON%20BROADBAND.pdf. In addition, ComReg is concluding a procurement process to launch a Broadband Speed Information Initiative later this year, which will compile data in respect of actual broadband speeds being experienced by users compared to the speed advertised for individual broadband packages.

Housing Adaptation Grant Applications

Questions (488)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

488. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding a housing adaptation grant in respect of a person (details supplied). [31547/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Under the terms of the suite of Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability, grants are available to assist households to have necessary repairs or improvement works carried out in order to facilitate the continued independent occupancy of their homes. Three separate schemes are available; the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability, the Mobility Aids Grant Scheme and the Housing Aid for Older People Scheme.

The detailed administration of these schemes, including the assessment, approval and payment of grants to applicants under the various grant measures, is the responsibility of the relevant local authority, in this instance Dublin City Council.

Animal Breeding Regulations

Questions (489)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

489. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of illegal puppy farms believed to be operating here; the steps being taken to close them down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31613/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The regulation of dog breeding establishments around the country is a matter for local authorities, and, since I commenced the Dog Breeding Establishment Act 2010 on 1 January 2012, a strong regulatory framework now exists for local authorities to undertake this work.

Statistics in relation to the implementation by local authorities since 2012 of these provisions, and in relation to other dog control activities, are published on my Department’s website at http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/StatisticsandRegularPublications/DogControl/ .

The Dog Breeding Establishment Act 2010 provides that all dog breeding establishments are required to register with the relevant local authority, pay a registration fee and meet a minimum set of veterinary, welfare and other standards.

Motor Tax Collection

Questions (490)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

490. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government regarding changes to the certificate of roadworthiness regulations, if a nine-seat passenger vehicle, eight passengers plus driver (details supplied) which was previously, for purposes of motor tax, designated as a youth community bus and used for charitable purposes, is now subject to a national car test and consequently liable to motor tax at the same rate as private cars used for private and social use; if it is possible for such a vehicle to continue to be classed as a youth community bus for the purposes of motor tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31723/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

In order to qualify for the youth and community bus motor taxation class, a vehicle must fulfil the following criteria:

- it must be owned by a youth or community organisation,

- it must be used exclusively by the organisation solely for the purpose of conveying persons on journeys directly related to the activities of the organisation,

- it must be constructed or adapted for the carriage of more than 8 persons, and

- it must have seating capacity for more than 8 persons.

In calculating the seating capacity for the purpose of determining the appropriate rate of duty, Article 28 of the Road Vehicles (Registration and Licensing) (Amendment) Regulations 1992 provides that the driver’s seat should not be counted.

Commercial Rates Issues

Questions (491)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

491. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a facility (details supplied) in County Kerry will be exempted from commercial rates because of its location in an unfinished housing estate where remedial works are due to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31822/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes, in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001. Schedules 3 and 4 of that Act set out properties that can, and cannot, be considered for rating purposes. The Commissioner for Valuation has sole responsibility for all valuation matters, including determination under the Act of relevant property for the purposes of rates.

There is no specific exemption from commercial rates in rating law for property located in unfinished housing estates.

Foreshore Issues

Questions (492)

Dara Calleary

Question:

492. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the regulations, guidelines or legislation which are in place on the harvesting of seaweed. [31845/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Section 3 of the Foreshore Act 1933 provides that the removal of any beach material from the foreshore is an activity that requires a foreshore licence. The definition of beach material in the Act includes seaweed, whether the seaweed is rooted on the foreshore or washed up by tidal action.

RAPID Programme

Questions (493)

Derek Keating

Question:

493. Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his future plans for RAPID schemes in the context of his realignment proposals under his local government reform agenda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31462/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The RAPID (Revitalising Areas by Planning, Investment and Development) programme aims to ensure that priority attention is given to tackling the spatial concentration of poverty and social exclusion in RAPID areas nationally. The programme has made substantial progress in identifying the needs of disadvantaged communities and in bringing forward appropriate local projects in response to those needs.

I have provided funding of €2 million for RAPID in 2013, this will be used to meet the Department’s existing contractual commitments on RAPID projects throughout the country, mainly Sports Capital top-ups and CCTV systems, jointly funded with the Departments of Transport, Tourism and Sport and Justice and Equality respectively.

I am keen that a focus is continued on the RAPID areas, through the range of local and community development interventions that are available on an area basis. Enhanced alignment between local government and local development is intended to improve the targeting of such local development spend. In that context, there will be an opportunity for a stronger, collaborative focus to be put on support for RAPID areas.

In implementing local government reform decisions, my Department will continue to consult as necessary with relevant stakeholders.

Local Authority Services

Questions (494)

Tom Fleming

Question:

494. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide the necessary funding to upgrade the windows, doors and roof of Killarney library, Killarney, County Kerry and if he will arrange for immediate improvements to disability access to enable the library to comply with regulations of the Barcelona agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31497/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Under Section 78 of the Local Government Act 2001, the provision of premises and facilities in the public library service is a matter for each local authority in its capacity as a library authority.

My Department provided funding towards the capital costs of approved new libraries, the refurbishment of existing libraries, and mobile libraries and delivery vans. In this regard, in 2008 my Department requested Library Authorities to provide details of priorities for library development within their area. In its response, Kerry County Council placed Killarney branch library as its third ranked priority. My Department has not received an application for funding in relation to the refurbishment of Killarney library and the 2013 allocation is fully committed.

In 2005, the multi-annual Disability Services programme to assist delivery of the National Disability Strategy by the Department, local authorities and bodies under the aegis of the Department was commenced. Funding was allocated annually to local authorities on the basis of priority areas identified by them in implementation plans. The programme was completed in 2009 with one year’s extra funding provided by the Department in 2010. Over €77 million was provided to local authorities between 2005 and 2010. The programme has now ceased and there are no plans for a further scheme.

Fire Service Issues

Questions (495)

Clare Daly

Question:

495. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will indicate the way the authors of the Keeping Communities Safe document arrived at the manning levels for Dublin as outlined in Appendix One of the document; and his views on whether the levels indicated in the document will have an effect on the standards of operations in the Dublin Fire Service. [31499/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The provision of fire services in a local authority area is a statutory function of the local authority. Under Section 10 of the Fire Services Act 1981, a fire authority is required to make provision for the delivery of fire services in its functional area, including the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of premises. Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each county and city manager is responsible for the staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authority for which he or she is responsible.

My Department supports fire authorities through setting of general policy, training support and issue of guidance on operational and other related matters, and the provision of capital funding.

I recently adopted and published the policy document Keeping Communities Safe (KCS), which sets the future direction of fire services in Ireland. This is intended to ensure that Ireland continues to manage its fire risk effectively and that our success in reducing fire fatalities, at their lowest level for four decades in 2012, continues.

The KCS policy document was prepared by my Department’s National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management through a collaborative approach betwe en central and local government. The national standards that are contained in KCS are in keeping with international good practic e and are crucial to a consistent approach across fire services in Ireland. The fire service response is based on the particular incident type at the location given. The PDA (Pre-Determined Attendance) is the initial automatic turnout, but can be varied by the officer in charge. The PDAs are set down by the Chief Fire Officer for each fire authority. However, there is now detailed , at Appendix A to the KCS policy document, a set of nationally determined PDAs which relate to different categories of incident types. It is expected that each fire service, Dublin Fire Brigade included, will review their PDAs in the light of Appendix A and make any necessary adjustments.

Water Services Provision

Questions (496)

Nicky McFadden

Question:

496. Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the working relationship that exists between the group water scheme sector and local authorities will remain in place following the establishment of Irish Water; if capital and subsidy supports to the GWS sector will be protected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31507/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Under the Water Sector Reform Programme the primary focus of Irish Water will be on the delivery of services to customers on the public water and wastewater networks. My Department will remain responsible for the overall policy, and funding where appropriate, of the non-public sector, including the group water sector.

In order to facilitate the establishment of a new public water utility to take over responsibility for the delivery of water services, a number of work-streams have been set up under the Water Sector Reform Programme to assist with the transition of services to Irish Water. One such work-stream is dealing specifically with issues relating to the Group Water Sector. The objectives of this work-stream are to ensure that there is clarity of roles and responsibility for the group wat er sector and other components of the Rural Water Programme and to develop a medium term strategy for the sector.

I expect that this work will be completed shortly and that the issues that are identified in the question will be resolved satisfactorily. Furthermore, it is anticipated that local authorities will continue to have a strong working relationship with the group water sector.

Commercial Rates Issues

Questions (497, 498)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

497. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to introduce exemptions or waivers from commercial rates for start up businesses. [31522/13]

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Dessie Ellis

Question:

498. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to introduce exemptions or waivers from commercial rates for the arts and culture sector. [31523/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 497 and 498 together.

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuati on Act 2001. Schedules 3 and 4 of that Act set out properties that can , and cannot, be considered for rating purposes. The Commissioner for Valuation has sole responsibility for all valuation matters, including determination under the Act of relevant property for the purposes of rates.

Under the provisions of the Local Government (Rates) Act 1970, a rating authority may make and carry out a scheme , providing for the waiver by the authority of all or a portion of commercial rates due by ratepayers in respect of a specified class or classes of property. The making of such a scheme is subject to my consent as nister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. No rate waiver schemes have been consented to in respect of commercial property.

While matters relating to rates are kept under regular consideration in my Department, the operation of the Valuation Act 2001 is a matter for my colleague , the nister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Commercial Rates Issues

Questions (499)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

499. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if new businesses are liable for unpaid commercial rates from previous tenants. [31524/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes, in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001. The levying and collection of rates are matters for each individual local authority.

Under the legislation, the person liable for payment of rates is the person in occupation of a rateable property on the date of the making of the rate by the relevant local authority. The owner, rather than the occupier, may be liable for commercial rates if the property in question is unoccupied on the date of the making of the rate. Should a person’s occupancy commence after the date of the making of the rate, then that person is not primarily liable for rates for that year. However, as a subsequent occupier, that person can be held liable for up to two years’ arrears of rates if they cannot be recovered from the person with whom the primary liability lies.

Commercial Rates Write-Offs

Questions (500)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

500. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to expand the criteria for the writing off of commercial rates. [31525/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes, in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001. The levying and collection of rates are matters for each individual local authority. As with all local charges, the invoicing and collection of due amounts is a matter for the local authority concerned to manage in the light of prevailing local circumstances and in accordance with normal accountancy procedures.

Commercial rates are legally payable in two moieties, the first moiety and arrears are payable on the date of the making of the rate, and the second moiety is payable on 1 July. In practice, most local authorities promote the use of direct debit payment facilities and work with businesses to put in place flexible payment options that reflect capacity to pay.

In accordance with the Local Authority Accounting in Ireland Code of Practice and Accounting Regulations, issued by my Department under section 107 of the Local Government Act 2001, local authorities are required to make provision for doubtful debts and to write off known uncollectable debts.

Fire Service Issues

Questions (501)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

501. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the revenue that was received from call out charges for the fire service for 2011 and 2012. [31526/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department does not collect this information. It is a matter for the individual fire authorities concerned.

Commercial Rates Valuation Process

Questions (502)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

502. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if rates are payable on the old health centre and old swimming pool in Ballymun, Dublin. [31529/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes, in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001. The Commissioner for Valuation has sole responsibility for all valuation matters, including determination under the Act of relevant property for the purposes of rates.

The Valuation Act 2001 comes under the aegis of my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Swimming Pool Projects

Questions (503)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

503. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the status and future plans for the old swimming pool in Ballymun, Dublin. [31530/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The status and future plans for the swimming pool in question are matters for Dublin City Council. My Department has no direct function or responsibility in the matter.

Planning Issues

Questions (504)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

504. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the cost of devolving planning back to local authorities; and if he will provide a breakdown of same. [31549/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Local authorities have had statutory responsibility for the operation of the Irish planning system since the introduction of modern planning arrangements under the Local Government (Planning) Act 1963.