National Broadband Plan

Questions (524)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

524. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the issues raised by a person (details supplied) at a meeting in New York at which the national broadband plan was discussed; if officials or he subsequently met with this person to discuss the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21695/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

A minute of the meeting in July 2018 was published last year and was amongst the documentation made available to the Process Auditor. Neither I nor my officials have met with the individual named.

National Broadband Plan Expenditure

Questions (525)

Barry Cowen

Question:

525. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the amount spent to date in 2019 on the national broadband plan; the amount expected to be spent in 2019 on the plan; if it is below the €75 million allocated under the National Development Plan 2018-2027; if funding can be carried forward to 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21708/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The total value of payments made in relation to the National Broadband Plan (NBP) in 2019 is €953,120.57 (including VAT). This expenditure includes the cost of corporate and economic advice, technical support and network design, the cost of legal and environmental advice. These services were procured by way of competitive tender. In addition, my Department has staff and other administrative costs related to the NBP. The National Development Plan (NDP) included an initial estimate for the National Broadband Plan State intervention for the period 2018 to 2027. This was an estimation of the requirement at the time the NDP was being prepared, since the level of State subsidy for the National Broadband Plan State intervention was always to be determined through the NBP procurement process. The National Broadband Plan is funded through the Capital allocation for my Department. Funding for the National Broadband Plan is allocated from the Communications subhead A.3 and has been allocated €75m in 2019 based on the NDP allocation.

Section 91 of the Finance Act 2004 provides that a maximum of up to 10% of the total capital allocation of each Vote may be carried over to the following financial year, subject to the approval of the Oireachtas and an Order from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (526, 527)

Barry Cowen

Question:

526. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the costed alternatives that were considered in relation to the national broadband plan; and the amount each alternative would have cost. [21709/19]

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Timmy Dooley

Question:

527. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the cost-benefit analyses conducted by his Department or on behalf of his Department with regard to each alternative option considered for the national broadband plan; the costs of each of the options considered; the meetings and or communications with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to these options; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21710/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 526 and 527 together.

The availability of high speed broadband to every home in the country will unlock the door to equal participation in digital transformation which is already transforming our lives and will continue to bring fresh opportunities which will be crucial to operations in Irelands regions

My Department commissioned a comprehensive Cost Benefit Analysis on the NBP as is a mandatory requirement under the public spending code. A CBA Benefits report and a detailed benefits calculation annex were published in 2015. This CBA was updated over the last four years and the finalised CBA was published earlier this month.

Alternative options for delivering high speed broadband were also considered in the context of only one bidder remaining in the process and this analysis has also been published. Each of these alternatives were considered against the CBA framework.

In stress testing a number of alternative options, it is not expected that a full CBA be carried out, rather it was to evaluate the salient changes that other options would bring, and evaluate them in the context of the general framework of benefits and costs. Some options sought to reduce the area covered, to alter the technology, to delay the roll out, or to alter the model underpinning the tender. This all involved an examination of costs, potential changes, state aid requirements etc.

That analysis concluded that these alternatives would take longer to reach 100% of the premises in the Intervention Area and in some scenarios would involve leaving some premises behind. In addition, the analysis concluded that the alternatives considered could potentially result in a higher cost to the State, would require a consultation on a new strategy, along with a new procurement process and State aid application. Some of the alternatives considered were unlikely to provide the level of future proofing required under the European Commission's Strategy for a Gigabit Society.

National Broadband Plan Administration

Questions (528)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

528. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the state aid implications of a new State agency being tasked with delivering the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21712/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The European Commission published detailed State Aid Guidelines for broadband in 2013, which the current process under the National Broadband Plan has followed. Member States have a wide margin of discretion in designing interventions to support broadband roll-out and choosing an appropriate intervention and financing model, subject to notification under State aid rules as appropriate. The measure proposed by Ireland to address the market failure identified was consulted on in 2015 and decided prior to the initiation of the public procurement process in December 2015. The Commission has made it clear to my Department that should Ireland wish to pursue an alternative investment model (for example a new State agency) to that chosen in 2015, a complete (pre-) notification to the EU Commission would be necessary, outlining in detail the design of the intervention under any new investment model and its possible compatibility with all relevant State aid rules (including the relevant Procurement Law Directive), with the same level of detail as has been provided under the current plan.

To establish a new non- commercial state agency my Department estimates that a new process would take at least 2 years from initiation to the appointment of an Agency, given the complexity of ensuring Ireland remains compliant with broadband State Aid and procurement law requirements. Such an agency would have to be established from scratch. Should an agency model be chosen, that Agency would then have to set out a plan to procure the necessary network design, build and operate contractors to act on behalf of the Agency to rollout the network and offer wholesale services to the market.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (529)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

529. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the costs arising in the national broadband plan from connecting new fibre assets to metropolitan area networks in which the fibre provided is available through other providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21713/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The costs arising from connecting new fibre assets to Metropolitan Area Networks and national backhaul networks can be broken down into various components, including optical fibre cable of various fibre counts and infrastructure rental covering poles, ducts, and co-location space. Some details of these costs are set out below. NBI have proposed to rent infrastructure from eir and enet as part of its their deployment plan. The main categories of infrastructure involved are; poles, ducts, and co-location space. The rental price of the eir infrastructure to be used for this project is set by ComReg.

Both eir and enet publish a range of rental prices on their websites. For example, the cost information relating to eir's rental cost co-location space is available at the following link: https://www.openeir.ie/Reference_Offers/?selectedtab=aro. enet has published its permitted maximum pricing for ducts, co-location etc. at the following link:

https://www.enet.ie/wholesale-pricing.html)

Information on the cost of renting eir's poles and ducts is available in the recent ComReg Decision notice, available at the following link:

https://www.comreg.ie/publication/pricing-of-eiras-wholesale-fixed-access-services-response-to-consultation-document-1567-and-final-decision/.

The alternative to renting infrastructure which currently exists would be to build an entirely new network, which would significantly increase the cost of the NBP and delay deployment.”

National Broadband Plan

Questions (530)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

530. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the timeline for the development of each cost-benefit analysis of the national broadband plan; the timeline of the errors identified in a cost-benefit analysis conducted by a company (details supplied) which were subsequently corrected; when this was communicated to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21714/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

In relation to the National Broadband Plan my Department commissioned a comprehensive Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) in line with the Public Spending Code (PSC). A CBA Benefits report and a detailed benefits calculation annex was published in 2015 by my Department as part of the approval to launch the procurement process. All updates to the 2015 CBA were shared with officials in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) and the final CBA has been published by my Department this May. The CBA has been developed and updated over the last four years. It was only through detailed engagement with the market through the 800 hours of dialogue with all bidders and through receiving the final tender submission by Granahan McCourt, that it was possible to finalise the published CBA which remains positive, even in the pessimistic scenario.

There was also significant engagement between my Department and its advisers and the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES) on behalf of DPER on the CBA. The development of the CBA has incorporated feedback from IGEES and DPER officials. The development of the CBA has incorporated and addressed feedback from IGEES and DPER officials to ensure compliance with the PSC.

During the course of engagement with IGEES and DPER officials an issue was raised by IGEES which was based on new guidance from that unit and had not been considered as part of the 2015 CBA. When this feedback was incorporated it resulted in a reduction to the net benefits in the CBA. An issue was identified in February 2019 relating to incorrect costs being included in the CBA. This error had not been in the 2015 CBA but instead was included in later CBA iterations. Correction of this error resulted in a reduction in costs, with the number in the CBA now reflecting the Final Tender. These corrections to benefits and costs are reflected in the final CBA and resulted in an overall positive CBA, published earlier this month.

There are challenges in applying the PSC to a bespoke project such as the NBP however, all of the benefits included in the CBA are consistent with the PSC Guidelines and generally accepted approached to CBAs of this nature.

PwC have provided all necessary assurances to my Department that both the CBA published in 2015 and the final CBA provided to the DPER and published in 2019 are accurate for all known costs and benefits allowed for under the PSC and are fully compliant with the PSC.

Broadband Service Provision

Questions (531, 532, 533, 534, 535, 541)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

531. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if and when high speed broadband services will be provided to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21759/19]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

532. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if and when high speed broadband services will be provided to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21760/19]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

533. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if and when high speed broadband services will be provided to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21761/19]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

534. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if and when high speed broadband services will be provided to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21762/19]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

535. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if and when high speed broadband services will be provided to persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21763/19]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

541. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when access to high speed broadband will be facilitated in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21885/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 531 to 535, inclusive, and 541 together.

The purpose of the National Broadband Plan is to ensure that over 1.1 million of our citizens in rural Ireland have the same opportunity to participate in the digital society as citizens living in urban areas. The availability of ubiquitous high speed broadband will bring significant benefits in areas of e-Health, e-Education, smart farming, regional development and tourism.

All of the premises referenced by the Deputy are in the AMBER area on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map, which is available on my Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie.

The AMBER areas represent the target areas for the proposed State led intervention under the NBP.

This intervention is the subject of the procurement process to engage a company to build, operate and maintain the NBP State intervention network. Following rigorous evaluation by my Department, I recently brought a recommendation to Government to confer Preferred Bidder status on Granahan McCourt, the remaining bidder in the NBP procurement process and Government agreed to this at its meeting on 7 May.

The Government decision means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to Granahan McCourt, subject to the contract close, including the finalisation of financial and legal documents. Deployment of the NBP State Intervention network will commence shortly after that.

The bidder has indicated that the NBP State intervention will take an estimated 7 years from the beginning of deployment.

In the first year of roll out, the Bidder will deploy approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) across all counties. It is anticipated that between 7 and 23 BCPs will be deployed in each county. BCPs will provide a community based high speed broadband service, enhancing online participation and allowing for the establishment of digital work hubs in these locations. A deployment plan will be made available by the bidder once the contract is signed. The Bidder is aiming to pass 133,000 premises by end of the second year of the overall deployment, with 70-100,000 passed each year thereafter until roll out is completed.

Biofuel Obligation Scheme

Questions (536)

John Curran

Question:

536. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the level in volume of biofuel in the fuel mix of the transport sector; his views on whether the target of 11% by 2020 will be reached; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14929/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Biofuels Obligation Scheme, administered by the National Oil Reserves Agency, is the principal support for the uptake of biofuels in Ireland. The scheme was introduced in 2010 and requires suppliers of liquid road transport fuels to ensure that biofuels make up a portion of annual fuel sales. It works on the basis of tradable certificates - two certificates are awarded per litre of sustainable biofuel if that biofuel is produced from wastes or residues, or one certificate is awarded per litre for all other sustainable biofuels. For each calendar year, a fuel supplier must hold sufficient biofuel obligation certificates to demonstrate compliance. Suppliers can meet their obligation either by placing sufficient amounts of biofuel on the market themselves, or by purchasing certificates from other suppliers with a surplus. The number of certificates required is determined by the biofuel obligation rate which increased in January 2019 from 8% by volume to 10% by volume. This means that at the end of the year, a fuel supplier must hold ten biofuel certificates for every 90 litres of fossil fuel they place on the road transport fuel market this year. Earlier this year, I signed an order to increase the biofuel obligation rate to 11% by volume, or 11 certificates per 89 litres of fossil fuel, from 1 January 2020.

In 2018, in order to meet the obligation over 200 million litres of biofuels were placed on the road transport fuel market. I expect the 10% by volume obligation from 2019 and the 11% by volume obligation from 2020 to be met.

Broadband Service Provision

Questions (537, 538)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

537. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the work of the Action Plan for Rural Development specifically relating to the roll out of broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15417/19]

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Niamh Smyth

Question:

538. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21341/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 537 and 538 together.

The purpose of the National Broadband Plan is to ensure that over 1.1 million of our citizens in rural Ireland have the same opportunity to participate in the digital society as citizens living in urban areas. The availability of ubiquitous high speed broadband will bring significant benefits in areas of e-Health, e-Education, smart farming, regional development and tourism.

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, which is pillar 5 of the Action Plan for Rural Ireland, has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. In 2012, less than 700,000, or 30% of Irish premises had access to high speed broadband. Today, 74% of the 2.4 million premises in Ireland have access to high speed broadband.

The National Broadband Plan intervention is the subject of the procurement process to engage a company to build, operate and maintain the NBP State intervention network. Following rigorous evaluation by the Department, I recently brought a recommendation to Government to confer Preferred Bidder status on Granahan McCourt, the remaining bidder in the NBP procurement process and Government agreed to this at its meeting on 7 May.

The Government Decision means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to National Broadband Ireland, subject to the contract close, including the finalisation of financial and legal documents. Deployment of the NBP State Intervention network will commence shortly after that.

The Bidder has indicated that the NBP State Intervention will take an estimated 7 years from the beginning of deployment.

In the first year of this roll out, the Bidder will deploy approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) across all counties. It is anticipated that between 7 and 23 BCPs will be deployed in each county. BCPs will provide a community based high speed broadband service, enhancing online participation and allowing for the establishment of digital work hubs in these locations. A deployment plan will be made available by the Bidder once the contract is signed. The Bidder is aiming to pass 133,000 premises by end of the second year of the overall deployment, with 70-100,000 passed each year thereafter until roll out is completed.

National Broadband Plan Data

Questions (539)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

539. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the unit price of cable per kilometre in the context of the national broadband plan; the number of optic strands per cable line; the price of infrastructure rental; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21654/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The unit price of cable per kilometre is information which is commercially sensitive within the telecommunications sector, as this fibre is sourced on the open commercial market. To disclose such information could allow suppliers to gain an unfair advantage and be disadvantageous to the National Broadband Plan (NBP) State intervention as a whole. The design of the NBP State intervention network calls for both overhead and underground sections of cable and the final 'drop' cable used to make the final connection to premises (either overhead or underground ). The number of fibre strands in a particular section will depend on the route design. Each route is specifically designed following a detailed site survey and the route cables are dimensioned to cater for existing and planned (at the time of deployment) premises. The cable dimensioning will include an additional fibre allowance to cater for future capacity requirements.

NBI have proposed to rent infrastructure from eir and enet as part of their deployment plan. The main categories of infrastructure involved are; poles, ducts, and co-location space. The rental price of the eir infrastructure to be used for this project is set by ComReg.

Both eir and enet publish a range of rental prices on their websites. For example, the cost information relating to eir's rental cost co-location space is available at the following link: https://www.openeir.ie/Reference_Offers/?selectedtab=aro. enet has published its permitted maximum pricing for ducts, co-location etc. at the following link https://www.enet.ie/wholesale-pricing.html)

Information on the cost of renting eir's poles and ducts is available in the recent ComReg Decision notice, available at the following link:

https://www.comreg.ie/publication/pricing-of-eiras-wholesale-fixed-access-services-response-to-consultation-document-1567-and-final-decision/

Public Spending Code

Question No. 541 answered with Question No. 531.

Questions (540)

Micheál Martin

Question:

540. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if it is normal practice for his Department to quote costs of projects as excluding VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21834/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Public Spending Code sets out a comprehensive set of expenditure appraisal, value for money and related guidance covering all public expenditure projects. The Code contains standard analytical procedures for carrying out financial analysis and, in accordance with these procedures, VAT is excluded from project costs on the basis that it is a transfer payment. The cost of procurement projects are published, exclusive of VAT, on the eTenders website and the Official Journal of the EU in accordance with procurement rules, which are based on the principle of equal treatment. VAT is excluded from costs, as VAT rates can differ depending on the jurisdiction of the tenderer and the nature of the goods or services being procured.

Question No. 541 answered with Question No. 531.

National Broadband Plan Data

Questions (542)

Joan Burton

Question:

542. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the estimated equity value of the national high speed broadband network in the national broadband plan upon its completion. [21999/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The value of a company is generally based on its likely future profitability. While National Broadband Ireland will, similar to any commercial company, strive to maximise its revenue and profitability, it will be constrained due to State Aid restrictions and regulatory oversight of the prices it can charge. Under State Aid rules it cannot use the subsidised network to compete in commercial areas and therefore its annual turnover may at its peak be in the order of €150m. The monthly prices it can charge are also capped to ensure they are comparable to those charged in urban areas. National Broadband Ireland will have to cover its operating costs from its annual revenues. It is difficult, therefore, to estimate with any certainty what the value of the company is likely to be at year 25 of the contract. Where the company is profitable at this point, the State will clawback 40% of this value under the contract and NBI will continue to operate the company at its own cost and serve all customers for a further 10 years up to 2054.