Thursday, 18 February 2021

Questions (47, 48, 50, 58)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

47. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the extent to which provision continues to be made for improvements in the telecommunications sector with particular reference to the provision of broadband in all areas throughout the country in order to meet the upsurge in usage arising from working at home in the context of the Covid-19 virus; the emergency measures needed to meet this requirement in the short term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9339/21]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

48. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the extent to which new connections to broadband are being made on a daily basis; if specific targets have been set with a view to meeting education and working from home requirements in the short term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9340/21]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

50. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if communication blackspots in respect of broadband are receiving particular attention arising from increased demand due to the need for home schooling, working from home and other restrictions arising from Covid-19; if he expects particular developments in this regard in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9342/21]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

58. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the emergency measures available to him to ensure a more rapid distribution of broadband throughout County Kildare in urban and rural areas given the increased demand arising from working from home, home schooling and the general impact of economic conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9352/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 47, 48, 50 and 58 together.

Providing telecommunication services is a matter for the relevant service providers operating in a fully liberalised market regulated by the Commission for Communication Regulation (ComReg), as independent Regulator. I recognise how vital telecommunications services are to citizens for so many aspects of their daily lives, including remote working, studying and staying in touch with family members during the Covid-19 crisis. In April of last year, all major telecommunications providers in Ireland committed to a number of measures to help people stay in touch and work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, a number of operators have implemented further supports for consumers, such as for students in education, who require a high data usage package, by increasing data limits on many existing packages and by the introduction of new packages with very high, or unlimited data offerings. As a result, the market for mobile packages with very high, or unlimited data offerings, is becoming increasingly competitive, which is a positive development for consumers.

Those commitments were further supported through regulations made under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1926, enabling ComReg to release additional rights of use for radio spectrum on a temporary basis. Ministerial consent was granted for this framework proposed by the regulator to provide flexibility for mobile network operators to create additional capacity for mobile phone and broadband services and accommodate the increased demand due to Covid 19 related working and studying from home. Licences were issued to three mobile network operators for three months, renewable again for three months. A further temporary licencing framework was put in place in October with licences issued to three operators for three months. Those licences were renewed again in December and are valid to 1 April 2021.

As set out in the Programme for Government, ensuring access to high-quality internet connections for people across Ireland is essential to the development of all parts of our country, socially and economically. Facilitating remote working and innovation opportunities is essential for addressing climate change, adapting in an evolving economy, and competing internationally. So as to ensure that nobody is left behind in a digital divide, the National Broadband Plan (NBP) State led Intervention will be delivered by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) to roll out a high speed and future proofed broadband network within the Intervention Area which covers 1.1 million people living and working in the nearly 540,000 premises, including almost 100,000 businesses and farms along with 695 schools.

There are a total of 95,188 premises in County Kildare of which 81,329 premises (85%) are served by commercial operators and 13,859 premises (15%) are in the National Broadband Plan Intervention Area. In terms of the number of broadband connections, ComReg publishes regular statistics and they are available at this link:See link to portal https://www.comreg.ie/industry/electronic-communications/data-portal/tabular-information/ The most up to date figures are as follows: figures for Fixed Broadband Q3 2019 - 1,454,925 and Q3 2020 1,507,832 which is a 3.6% increase over the period. The figures for Mobile Broadband are Q3 2019 306,633 and Q3 2020 323,530 which is an increase of 5.5% over the period.

The NBP network will offer users a high speed broadband service with a minimum download speed of 500Mbps from the outset. This represents an increase from the 150Mbps committed to under the Contract. The deployment plan forecasts premises passed in all counties within the first 2 years and over 90% of premises in the State having access to high speed broadband within the next four years.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.