I propose to take Questions Nos. 514 and 515 together.
The Government recognises the need to roll out high speed broadband as quickly as possible and is conscious that the full rollout of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) State intervention area will take a number of years. The Government intends to ensure an early connection to high speed broadband in specific key locations in rural communities. Approximately 300 Broadband Connections Points (BCPs), including schools, library hubs and local sports halls in every county in Ireland, will be connected to high speed broadband during 2020, to enable communities to quickly get free public access to high speed broadband.
All BCPs will have a free public Wi-Fi connection, some will also have hot-desks, and some will be digital hub business centres where digital training, business information events and other SME supports are organised.
My Department's November 2014 NBP High Speed Broadband Map Public Consultation was completed to identify where State investment would be required to enable access to high speed broadband. This consultation described a set of “Strategic Connection Points”, including schools, hospitals and business parks, described as locations which “may fulfil a common social or economic role for its surrounding community”.
Those making submissions to the public consultation were invited to share their views on the Strategic Connection Points (SCPs) and to suggest additional types of locations. The majority of submissions agreed on the importance of the SCPs. Some respondents expanded on the initial list and suggested that the list should also include innovation hubs, community enterprise centres, community centres, sports clubs and rural tourist locations. The list of SCPs was prioritised by Local Authority Broadband Officers into Priority 1, Priority 2 and Priority 3 SCP locations.
The Priority 1 locations, called Broadband Connection Points (BCPs), are targeted for priority deployment in 2020, the first year of the NBP State intervention network deployment.
In 2016, Broadband Officers, in consultation with their communities, selected up to 20 SCPs for evaluation as BCPs. In October of that year, the Regional Telecommunications and Innovation Unit in the then Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (now in the Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD)) convened an evaluation panel comprised of representation from that Department, local authorities and also my Department. Potential BCP locations were evaluated on the basis of various criteria, including facilities available and the practicalities of access to the site for members of the public.
In April 2017, the NBP Map was further updated to reflect changes in the Intervention Area. As a result, a number of the BCPs were located in an area where they could avail of a commercial operator high speed service and they were removed from the list. At this time, the BCP list was refreshed by the Local Authorities. The updated list of BCPs reflected the priorities of the Local Authorities and characteristics of each county.
The final list of 298 BCPs was published on 19 November. There will be between 7 and 23 BCP locations in each county and they include 138 community centres, 19 tourism locations, 78 schools and 13 business locations. The BCP locations are available to view on the High Speed Broadband Map on the Department’s website www.dccae.gov.ie.