Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Questions (84)

Eamon Scanlon


84. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the solutions he and the agencies under his remit have in place to tackle unemployment in rural areas in view of further delays with the roll-out of the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7258/18]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Government's National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure high speed broadband access (minimum 30 megabits per second) to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location.  The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. Today 7 out of 10 of the 2.3 million premises in Ireland have access to high speed broadband.  By the end of this year that number will rise to nearly 8 out of 10 premises and by 2020, 9 out of 10 premises or 90% of premises will have access to a high speed broadband connection. This will be achieved via a combination of commercial investment and a State led intervention.

I fully recognise the importance of availability of high speed broadband connectivity to employment in rural Ireland and appreciate the frustration felt by people in rural areas who do not currently have access to this level of connectivity. 

My Department is continuing the formal procurement process to select a company who will roll-out a new high speed broadband network in the State intervention area and the procurement process is now at an advanced stage. 

Delivering high speed broadband to citizens across Ireland remains my firm commitment and that of the Government.

In the interim, practical initiatives will continue to be addressed through the work of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce to address obstacles and improve connectivity in respect of existing and future mobile phone and broadband services.

Under this Taskforce, engagement between telecommunications operators and local authorities through the Broadband Officers is continuing to strengthen.  These Broadband Officers are acting as single points of contact in local authorities for their communities.  The appointment of these officers is already reaping rewards in terms of ensuring a much greater degree of consistency in engagements with operators and clearing obstacles to developing infrastructure.  There is a link to a list of these local Broadband Officers on my Department's website.