I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 299 together.
The requirement for technological neutrality within the EU telecommunications market is established by Article 8 of “Directive 2002/21/EC of 7 March 2002 on a Common Regulatory Framework for Electronic Communications Networks and Services”. This provision reflects the growing convergence of technologies, products and services which can encourage increased competition and improve the functioning of the internal EU telecommunications market. Any proposal to amend a current EU legislative Act is a matter for the EU Commission in the first instance, in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure established by Article 294 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
In designing the procurement process for an intervention in the market under the National Broadband Plan, my Department will be required to comply with the EU State aid rules which set out conditionality in relation to, among other things, technology neutrality. As different technological solutions exist to provide broadband services, no particular technology or network platform should be excluded. The EU State Aid guidelines do, however, emphasise the role of fibre in assisting the delivery of high speed broadband through various platforms and emphasise the importance of having fibre close to the end-user premises. All operators recognise the importance of fibre in the network and commercial operators such as Eircom and UPC for example rely on fibre as a significant component in their next generation networks even though the final access into the premises is not necessarily over fibre.