The telecoms market is fully liberalised and regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), who is statutorily independent in the exercise of its functions. ComReg published a number of decisions in November 2018 governing the regulation of wholesale broadband access markets (ComReg docs 18/94, 18/95 and 18/96 – available on ComReg’s website). I understand that ComReg has concluded that certain obligations be imposed on Eir in certain wholesale broadband access markets, with the intention of promoting effective competition by, inter alia, making it easier for other telecoms operators to use Eir’s wholesales services. The obligations include the requirement that Eir publish information in advance regarding its products, services and facilities.
Separately, in relation to the NBP, my Department recently conducted a public consultation 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 was extended twice at the request of operators, resulting in a total nine week period for submissions and it closed on 30th September 2019.
As part of the consultation, over 180 submissions were received from a variety of stakeholders, including 30 from large and small commercial telecommunications operators, with the remainder from local authority broadband officers and members of the public.
Operator submissions are assessed against the Department’s published assessment criteria. Operators submitting planned investments are required to sign a declaration that they will enter into a Commitment Agreement with the Department if their plans satisfy the assessment criteria and are accepted by the Department as being concrete and credible.
The findings of the consultation, which will be available in the coming weeks, will ensure that the State Intervention Area is up to date and that it reflects commercial operators’ plans and the responses from householders and businesses, in advance of a contract being signed later this year. This will be an important element in concluding the State Aid approval process with the European Commission.