Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Questions (51)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

51. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications when broadband will be available at a property (details supplied); the steps that person can take to accelerate the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2759/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Question refers to a premises which is 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.

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. In County Donegal, surveys have been completed in Milford, Letterkenny, Ramelton, Termon, Ballymacool, Kilmacrennan, Mullaghfin and Tommyscroft. Further details are available on specific areas within County Donegal 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, reps@nbi.ie, 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, 244 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 connected in Donegal are Ray Community Centre, Leghowney Community Centre, Dunree Military Museum, Cranford Coole Community Centre, the Gweedore Theatre and Meenreagh Hostel. Further details can be found at https://nbi.ie/bcp-locations/.

School BCPs will be provided with high speed broadband for educational use and more than 70 schools will have been connected by the end of January through ‘service provider' contracts managed by the Department of Education. 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 the schools aspect of the project was announced late last year and will see some 679 primary schools connected to high speed broadband by 2022, well ahead of the original target delivery timeframe of 2026. Some 42 schools in County Donegal are to be connected by the end of 2022. Further details are available on the NBI website at https://nbi.ie/primary-schools-list/.

The Programme for Government has committed to seek to accelerate the roll out of the National Broadband Plan. In this regard, my Department continues to engage with NBI to explore the feasibility of accelerating aspects of this rollout to establish the possibility of bringing forward premises which are currently scheduled in years 6 and 7 of the current plan to an earlier date. NBI has established a dedicated team to investigate acceleration of the rollout from its current contracted schedule of seven years. All possible alternative network providers are being considered and substantial work has been completed by this team to date with further actions scheduled over the coming months. This includes an assessment of the potential to utilise the ESB Network for certain areas and this work is on-going. The technical feasibility of whether the ESB network is compatible with the NBI solution has been the primary focus and NBI have undertaken site surveys and developed a detailed design for a pilot area using the ESB network, with the aim of establishing from this pilot exercise, the feasibility of using the ESB infrastructure on a broader basis.