I propose to take Questions Nos. 380 and 381 together.
As a State intervention, the National Broadband Plan must comply with the requirements of the European Commission’s Guidelines on the application of the State aid rules to broadband networks.
The Guidelines require, amongst other things, that Member States carry out a detailed mapping exercise and public consultation process in particular to identify as far as reasonably possible those areas where intervention is required.
Since July 2013, the Department has engaged in an ongoing and extensive process of mapping and monitoring of broadband availability in Ireland. This has been supported by a number of public consultations from 2014 to date. This process has included a review of operator networks in line with the assessment criteria published in 2015.
The Department recently consulted publicly to close the ongoing mapping exercise, seeking submissions from operators who wish to have their existing high speed broadband networks or who have developed plans to invest in high speed broadband networks over the next 7 years to be included on the Department’s High Speed Broadband Map. That consultation closed on 30 September.
In addition, the Department has identified approximately 46,000 premises in commercial areas of the Map where high speed broadband services have not materialised and have sought information in relation to these or other similar premises from operators or the public.
As part of the consultation, over 180 submissions have been received from a variety of stakeholders, including 30 from large and small telecoms operators, and the remainder from local authority broadband officers and members of the public.
Operator submissions will be assessed against the Department’s published assessment criteria. Operators submitting planned investments were required to sign a declaration that they would enter into a Commitment Agreement with the Department if their plans satisfied the assessment criteria and were accepted by the Department as being concrete and credible.
Following the conclusion of the Department’s assessment, the non-confidential versions of all submissions will be published, as soon as possible, on the Department’s website together with the outcome of the assessment.
The outcome of the consultation will form part of the continuing engagement of the Department with DG Competition as part of the compliance with State Aid Rules.