Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Questions (92)

Ciaran Cannon

Question:

92. Deputy Ciarán Cannon asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding the work of the recently appointed broadband officers in the local authorities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27574/17]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Arts)

The report of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce, which was published last December, recommended the assignment by each Local Authority of an officer with responsibility for broadband and mobile phone services. The function of this officer is to act as a single point of contact for telecommunications operators on the rollout of telecommunications infrastructure, as well as to increase awareness of, and stimulate demand for, broadband services.

My Department has provided funding to all Local Authorities to support the assignment of a Broadband Officer. To date, 30 of the 31 Local Authorities have appointed a Broadband Officer. I understand that the remaining Local Authority is currently recruiting and is expected to appoint an officer shortly.

The remit of the Broadband Officer is primarily to manage interactions with any company that is seeking to roll out telecommunications infrastructure in their county. The Broadband Officers will also work with the winning bidder(s) in respect of the rollout of the National Broadband Plan in the areas to be covered by State intervention. Broadband Officers are also involved in helping to develop local digital strategies to ensure that full use is made of the new broadband infrastructure once it is in place.

My Department has, additionally, established two regional Action Groups involving all of the Broadband Officers to ensure consistency in their engagement with the telecommunications operators and to identify and address obstacles to the rollout of telecoms infrastructure.

The telecommunications providers have widely welcomed the assignment of the Broadband Officers by the Local Authorities and are actively engaging with them.

The appointment of Broadband Officers is just one of 40 actions contained in the report of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce. Along with my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, I have been co-chairing an Implementation Group to drive the delivery of the actions in the report. Progress Reports from the Implementation Group will be published on a quarterly basis. The first Progress Report, covering Quarter1 2017, has recently been published on the websites of both my Department and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.