I propose to take Questions Nos. 311 and 312 together.
The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to deliver high speed broadband services to every city, town, village and individual premises in Ireland. The Programme for Government commits to the delivery of the NBP as a matter of priority. This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment by the telecommunications sector and a State intervention in those areas where commercial investment has not been fully demonstrated.
The High Speed Broadband Map, which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie shows the extent of the State Intervention area:
- The areas marked BLUE on the High Speed Broadband Map represent those areas where commercial telecommunications providers are either currently delivering or have previously indicated plans to deliver high speed broadband services.
- The areas marked AMBER on the High Speed Broadband Map represent the target areas for the State Intervention, which are the subject of the current procurement process.
The areas referred to by the Deputy fall within a BLUE area and are therefore expected to be covered by commercial operators. Individuals can check whether their premises are in a BLUE or an AMBER area by accessing the High Speed Broadband Map and entering their Eircode.
While I cannot compel any operator to provide services to particular premises, the National Broadband Plan aims to ensure that all premises can access high speed broadband. My Department is therefore closely monitoring the rollout of services in the BLUE area, including Dundalk. I would encourage consumers in Dundalk who cannot access high speed broadband services to contact my Department directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, quoting their address and Eircode, and giving details of providers they have contacted with a view to obtaining services. This information will assist the Department in keeping track of progress in those areas and following up if necessary.
My Department is now in a formal procurement process to select a company or companies who will roll-out a new high speed broadband network within the State Intervention Area including over 15,100 premises in Co. Louth, covering 100,000 km of road network and 96% of the land area of Ireland.
The Programme for Government also commits to measures to assist in the rollout of the network once a contract is awarded. In this regard, Minister Humphreys is leading on the establishment of two regional action groups, working with Local Authorities, Local Enterprise Offices and other relevant agencies to help accelerate the broadband network build in rural Ireland, once a contract(s) has been awarded.
In a further positive initiative, last July, I established a Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce with my colleague Minister Humphreys to address immediate issues in relation to the quality of mobile phone and broadband coverage. The Taskforce report is available on my Department's website at the following link: http://www.dccae.gov.ie/communications/en-ie/Broadband/Pages/Mobile-Phone-and-Broadband-Taskforce.aspx.
I have signed Regulations allowing ComReg to proceed with an early 2017 auction of the 3.6GHz radio spectrum band, to provide an 86% increase in total spectrum available for mobile and fixed wireless services. I have also secured €8m for RTE which will allow it to free up the 700MHz spectrum band, to provide enhanced mobile services.
In the meantime, my Department continues to liaise closely with industry and relevant other Departments and agencies to assist in the commercial deployment of telecommunications networks. The commercial telecommunications sector has invested over €2.5bn in upgrading and modernising networks which support the provision of high speed broadband and mobile telecoms services.
These investments should assist in significantly improving the coverage and quality of broadband and mobile voice and data services throughout the country, including County Louth.