Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Questions (566)

Pádraig MacLochlainn


566. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when an efibre upgrade will be rolled out at Bridgend in County Donegal, as Bridgend is designated as a second tier town by Donegal County Council, and is strategically well located on the border and on the Derry-Letterkenny gateway, with much potential for economic development and investment. [4151/16]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Government’s National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure that every citizen and business, regardless of location, has access to a high quality, high speed broadband service. This will be achieved through a combination of commercial investments and a State led intervention in areas where commercial services will not be provided.

The commercial telecommunications sector is currently investing approximately €2.5 billion in network upgrades and enhanced services. These very significant investments represent a step change in the quality of broadband services available.

On the 22 December 2015, I formally launched the procurement process for the State Intervention to provide high quality, high speed broadband to all premises in Ireland that may not be served through commercial investment. The formal procurement commenced with the publication of the Project Information Memorandum and the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire. In addition, my Department also published:

- the National Intervention Strategy – updated in December 2015, which takes account of responses to the public consultation which took place in July 2015 and subsequent expert analysis; and

- the High Speed Broadband Map 2020 which follows ongoing engagement with industry and public consultation.

The Intervention strategy sets out a detailed service specification including a requirement that the State-funded network must be capable of delivering high-quality, high speed broadband of at least 30mbps download and 6mbps upload. It must also be capable of catering for higher performance in the future so as to keep pace with consumer demand. It is therefore a matter for bidders to select the technology which will show how they propose to meet these contractual requirements.

Given the quality of the services we wish to see delivered, and based on the current absence of significant fibre networks in many parts of Ireland, it is likely that fibre will play a major role in any proposed solution. However, the technology platforms that will provide the final connectivity to the premises will be a matter for commercial operators to decide on in line with EU State Aid guidelines.

The 2020 map is available at www.broadband.gov.ie. The map shows Ireland with two colours, BLUE and AMBER.

The areas marked BLUE represent those areas where commercial providers are either currently delivering or have plans to deliver high speed broadband services by the end of 2016 and includes Bridge End, County Donegal. Where parts of the town or its environs are not covered by commercial high speed services, these will be the target for the State intervention.

The areas marked AMBER represent the target areas for the proposed State intervention. Members of the public can see whether their individual premise is in the BLUE or AMBER area by inserting their Eircode, and/or address, or scrolling through the map.

The Government is determined to ensure that the network in the AMBER area is built out as quickly as possible and engagement with industry stakeholders has indicated that this could be achieved within 3-5 years of the contract award. In this context, the NBP proposes that through the combination of commercial investment and State intervention, 85% of addresses in Ireland will have access to high speed services by 2018, with all addresses passed by 2020.

More generally I am informed by the commercial operators that next generation broadband services have been rolled out to over 21,000 premises to date in County Donegal, with over 27,000 additional premises expected to be served by end 2016. The remaining 52,000 premises in County Donegal will be covered by commercial investment or be the target of the proposed State intervention under the National Broadband Plan. The breakdown of premises covered, per townland, is available on the High Speed Broadband Map at www.broadband.gov.ie.