The Question refers to a townland in Westmeath whose premises are primarily located in the AMBER area on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map which is available on my Department's website www.broadband.gov.ie. The AMBER area represents the area to be served by the network to be deployed under the NBP State led intervention.
Eir’s rural deployment of high speed broadband is a commercial undertaking and, as such, decisions regarding the areas and premises served are made by eir. My Department has no role in the matter and has no statutory authority to intervene in decisions of commercial operators as to where they build infrastructure and provide services. Throughout rural Ireland, eir’s fibre deployment is primarily focussed on towns and villages and the premises on their outskirts. Where that network ends is where the National Broadband Plan in effect commences to ensure that nobody is left behind.
I appreciate people's frustration when they are living so close to a fibre network but cannot get a connection to that network, particularly given the heightened importance of connectivity during the Covid-19 pandemic. The NBP will ensure that in all such cases a future proofed high speed broadband network will be built to serve these premises and work to deliver on this is underway.
I am advised by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) that, as of 8 January 2021, over 158,000 premises across all counties have been surveyed which is ahead of schedule. Surveys have been completed in Westmeath in the areas of Mullingar, Sonna, Stonehall, Taghmon, Jamestown, Hopestown and Athlone. Further details are available on specific areas within County Westmeath through the NBI website which provides a facility for any premises within the intervention area to register their interest in being provided with deployment updates through its website www.nbi.ie. Individuals who register with this facility will receive regular updates on progress by NBI on delivering the network and specific updates related to their own premises as works commence. I am aware that concerns have been raised regarding the level of information available on the deployment of the NBI network and I am advised that NBI is working to provide more detail on its website, with a rolling update on network build plans. NBI also has a dedicated email address, email@example.com, which can be used by Oireachtas members for specific queries.
Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are a key element of the NBP providing high speed broadband in every county in advance of the roll out of the fibre to the home network. As of 10 January, 243 publicly accessible BCP sites have been installed by NBI and the high speed broadband service will be switched on in these locations through service provider contracts managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development. BCP’s installed in Westmeath are Streete Parish Park and Community Hall, Whitehall Community Centre, Milltown Emper Community Centre (which is in the area of Dalystown) and Ballycomoyle GAA Club. Further details can be found at https://nbi.ie/bcp-locations/.
Scoil Náisiúnta Bhride and Naomh Michael primary schools are installed by NBI for educational access as part of this initiative. My Department continues to work with the Department of Education to prioritise schools with no high speed broadband, within the intervention area for connection over the term of the NBP. In this regard, an acceleration of this aspect of the National Broadband Plan was announced in December which will see almost 700 primary schools connected to high speed broadband by 2022, well ahead of the original target delivery timeframe of 2026. Further details are available on the NBI website at https://nbi.ie/primary-schools-list/.