Thursday, 18 February 2021

Questions (49)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

49. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the extent to which forward planning is taking place with a view to expediting the roll-out of broadband throughout Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9341/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The High Speed Broadband Map, which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie, shows the areas which will be included in the National Broadband Plan (NBP) State led intervention as well as areas targeted by commercial operators. The map is colour coded and searchable by address and Eircode. The deployment plan forecasts construction commenced 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. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of good reliable broadband to ensure that citizens across Ireland can avail of remote working, education and other essential online facilities. The Programme for Government commits 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 As part of that work NBI is engaging with all current build partners (eir and enet) to bring forward build activities and is also actively reviewing other possible build partners such as the ESB where such options could also speed up the build process. Exploring the potential to accelerate the network rollout is being undertaken in parallel with the measures required to mitigate delays arising as a result of Covid-19.

A combination of commercial investment and the State led intervention will ensure access to high speed broadband in every part of the country and no premises will be left behind, no matter how remote. Of the 2.4 million premises across Ireland, 77% of premises now have access to high-speed broadband of more than 30 Mbps. NBI will  address  the remaining premises through the National Broadband Plan State intervention. A number of commercial operators have announced further investment plans in high-speed broadband. Eir has said it will roll out fibre to a further 1.4 million premises, bringing their fibre deployment to some 1.8 million premises. SIRO is currently completing the first phase of its fibre deployment which will see 375,000 premises passed with gigabit services. Virgin Media is offering 250Mbps as a standard offering with 500Mbps and 1Gbps available to many of their customers across the more than 1 million premises that they cover. Many other network operators and telecom service providers across the State also continue to invest in their networks.

Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 47.