Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Questions (52)

Dara Calleary

Question:

52. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the timeline for the release of information on the mobile coverage blackspots pilot project to encompass all 31 local authority areas expanded in March 2018; if a map of blackspots will be made available; the actions he will take to address these blackspots; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51866/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce was established in July 2016 to examine broadband and mobile phone coverage deficits in Ireland and identify tangible actions to improve the quality of these services.

The Taskforce Report was published in December 2016, and included 40 actions to alleviate barriers to mobile phone reception and broadband access. An Implementation Group was established in 2017 to oversee the delivery of the actions in the Taskforce’s report. Progress reports on the delivery of these actions are published on my Department's website on a quarterly basis.

With regard to the specific issue of mobile phone blackspots, my officials, in conjunction with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, are actively engaged with Local Authorities and mobile phone operators to identify priority blackspots and take action to address this issue.

During 2017, officials of both Departments worked with a group of Local Authorities to identify the issues associated with mapping local blackspots. Building on this exercise, a call was issued to all Local Authorities in 2018 to map local blackspots and identify infrastructure that could potentially be used to improve telecommunications services.

To date, 17 Local Authorities have provided data on more than 200 blackspots, although it should be borne in mind that the number of blackspots is constantly changing as new telecommunications infrastructure is rolled out and upgraded. The blackspot information that the Department has received so far is providing data regarding poor coverage in specific rural areas and along national and regional roads. The Department is continuing to work with the telecommunications providers to ensure that new infrastructure is targeted at the areas most in need.

It is not envisaged that the data gathered through this exercise will be published due to the constantly changing nature of the information. However, through another action in the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce report, ComReg intends to publish a composite national coverage map by the end of the year. This will allow consumers to check which mobile phone operator can provide the best coverage in their area.