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National Broadband Plan

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 4 November 2021

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Questions (10)

Neale Richmond

Question:

10. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he will report on the roll-out of the NBP in Dublin city and county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53500/21]

View answer

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Environment)

I want to ask the Minister of State to report on the roll-out of the NBP, particularly in Dublin, in the city and county areas.

I am the Minister of State responsible for broadband and that does not just involve the NBP. I am also responsible for ensuring the whole country has broadband and there are blackspots within urban areas as well. There are over 624,000 premises in County Dublin, of which 15,000 are within the NBP intervention area. Those premises will receive access to high speed broadband under the NBP. Government investment in County Dublin in the NBP will be approximately €48 million. I am advised by NBI that, as of 27 October, almost 2,500 premises in County Dublin have been surveyed. In Dublin, surveying is complete or under way in areas around Skerries, Balbriggan, north County Dublin, Fingal, Castleknock, Blanchardstown, Clonsilla, Ongar, Chapelizod, Ballyfermot, Cabra, Bluebell and Finglas. Build work is currently under way in the Skerries area. The NBI website provides a facility for any premises within the intervention area to register its interest in being provided with deployment updates through its website www.nbi.ie.

In addition to the challenges to the delivery of the NBP due to the Covid-19 pandemic, NBI has faced a range of other challenges due to the sheer scale and complexity of rolling out fibre to the home in a rural environment. My Department has worked closely with NBI to put in place a remedial plan under the contract. This plan addresses delays experienced by NBI, primarily arising as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and re-baselines milestones for 2021. Work is under way to re-baseline milestones for 2022 and beyond.

Broadband connection points, BCPs, are a key element of the NBP, providing high speed broadband to every county in advance of the roll-out of the fibre to the home network. As of 27 October, 386 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 for publicly accessible sites and the Department of Education for school BCPs. BCPs are installed in County Dublin at Man O'War GAA club, Applewood Community Centre, Tyrrelstown Community Centre, Newbridge House and Farm, Glenasmole Community Centre, Stars of Erin GAA and Dublin Mountain Community Centre and Fingal Ravens GAA club. Balscadden National School's BCP has been installed by NBI for educational access.

I am appreciative of that update and I appreciate the Minister of State's focus, interest and awareness in this. When people think about the NBP they often think about areas outside the capital but it is an increasing issue in my constituency of Dublin Rathdown, where there are a number of areas when you talk about Stars of Erin GAA club in Glencullen but it is a part of the county that I know the Minister of State and the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, know particularly well. We are thinking of areas like Glencullen as well as Tibradden, Barnacullia, Ballybetagh and Kiltiernan, where there is a distinct lack of ability to access broadband and an increasing issue of general connectivity. In the last 18 months we have seen the increased focus on people working and studying from home and remotely and it is becoming a huge issue for a growing population in my constituency who are prepared to go for a blended model or whatever but who simply do not have the strength and connectivity to maintain that.

If the Deputy has constituents who are unable to access decent broadband they can apply to be in the intervention area through my Department if the Deputy emails broadband@dec.gov.ie. They will be surveyed and assessed and if broadband is unavailable to them from any other supplier up to 30 MB then they can be included in NBI's roll-out. SIRO is developing in the border area between the city and the rural area of the Dublin mountains. SIRO is half-owned by the Irish State and it announced last week that it will deliver an additional 300,000 fibre connections and Cabinteely and Foxrock were included among those. It is looking at areas at the edge of the city where it can install fibre broadband and that may be appropriate for some of the Deputy's constituents.

I appreciate that intervention because there are such pockets throughout County Dublin, be they on the south side or the north side like my colleagues either side of me, that are falling between the gaps and not being considered as part of the overall plan. I welcome the Minister of State's comments on SIRO and I appreciate the opportunities he presented for individual constituents. He mentioned a range of areas in his initial reply, none of which are in my part of the county and that is the concern. We need to make sure the surveys are progressed up the Dublin mountains into places such as Glencullen and Tibradden. These are not just traditionally peri-urban or rural but they are also areas with growing housing developments. Over 7,500 homes are about to be constructed in this area and the Minister of State knows that as well as anyone. We need to ensure those houses do not drain the resources and that the people who are there already have full access to ensure they can take that blended working model and have the level of connectivity they need for work and study.

I thank Deputy Richmond for the question, which conveniently covered north County Dublin, and I thank the Minister of State for the detail provided. I have no desire to sound like my esteemed colleagues from County Kerry but a significant number of communities in north County Dublin were mentioned, which I am appreciative of. I would like to take the opportunity to welcome the importance of the NBP and I recognise the work Deputy Bruton did on it. It is fantastic to see so many community hubs being created across the country and not just in my constituency. Deputy Richmond mentioned the importance of NBI in the context of working from home and the fact that there are people in urban communities who do not have access to high speed broadband. I was pleased to hear what the Minister of State had to say about contacting his Department to have assessments completed. I am concerned about slippage during Covid, which is not the subject of the question, but the Minister of State might touch on that in his remarks.

North County Dublin has much larger areas and is a lot more rural than south County Dublin. That is why more areas in north County Dublin were listed. I will contact NBI if the Deputy has specific areas in the Dublin mountains that he thinks need to be surveyed and I will ask it to look at that. On blackspots in urban areas, I have spoken to NBI about this and in some cases a commercial supplier next door needs to extend its fibre into that neighbouring premises. Sometimes the best way to solve that blackspot is for NBI to pay whoever the local supplier is to do that. I mentioned SIRO but Eir has an enormous fibre roll out plan as well and that has been greatly increased. Virgin Media made an announcement yesterday as well so we have four large deployments and those will start to cover many of the areas that concern the Deputy. We need to reach gigabit style broadband so that we can have multiple people in a home who are working and attending education at the same time. That is such a common thing and the Deputy's constituents will have come to him about that problem.

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