Thursday, 24 October 2013

Questions (42)

Seán Fleming


42. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide an update on progress on the national broadband plan; if the plan will be fully implemented in its original form; if the Government is still committed to co-fund fibre-speed rural broadband access of at least 30 megabits per second; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44968/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Government's National Broadband Plan, which I published in August 2012, aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed broadband is available to all citizens and businesses. This will be achieved by providing a policy and regulatory framework that assists in accelerating and incentivising commercial investment, and a State-led investment for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest.

Since the publication of the Plan, investments by the commercial sector are underway in both fixed line and wireless high speed broadband services. ComReg has put in place a new regulatory regime for fixed line Next Generation Access and for service bundles, both of which are designed to incentivise the rollout of services by service providers. ComReg's multiband spectrum auction, completed in 2012, is also enabling the rollout of advanced mobile broadband services.

In order to progress the State-led investment for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest, a full procurement process must be designed and EU State Aids approval must be obtained. My Department is engaged in a comprehensive mapping exercise of the current and anticipated investment by the commercial sector to identify where the market is expected to deliver high speed broadband services over the coming years. The results of this mapping exercise will inform the precise areas that need to be targeted in the State-led investment as envisaged in the National Broadband Plan.

In devising any State intervention to deliver high speed services to areas of the country where such services are not commercially viable and will not be provided by the market, my Department will be adopting a technology neutral approach, as required under EU law. This means specifying our requirements rather than specifying a particular technology. Intensive technical, financial and legal preparations, including stakeholder engagement, are ongoing. The procurement process for the approved intervention will be carried out in accordance with EU and Irish procurement rules and it is expected that it will be launched in 2014.

Implementation of the National Broadband Plan will be complemented by the National Digital Strategy which I launched in July last. The first phase of the National Digital Strategy targets specific segments of society, aiming to improve digital adoption and to realise the economic and social benefits that digital technologies can bring.

Through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, I am committed to ensuring that all parts of Ireland have access to high speed broadband, with a view to ensuring that all citizens and businesses can participate fully in, and maximise the benefits of, a digitally enabled economy and society.

Question No. 43 answered with Question No. 37.