Written Answers. - Broadband Communication.

Rory O'Hanlon

Ceist:

200 Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for Public Enterprise her plans for development for broadband communication; the progress made to date in this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27734/01]

There has been a slow down in the development of the communications network over the last twelve months in Ireland. This has been brought about by a slow down internationally in the financing of the communications industry.

I have in recent years put in place a number of initiatives under national policy, which seek to address gaps in communications infrastructure in Ireland, particularly by bringing broadband con nectivity to regional and rural areas. Under the National Development Plan 1994-1999, 26 million (IR£20 million) was made available to support the roll-out of broadband to the regions. Thirteen projects which rolled-out broadband nationwide were supported and are now nearing completion. Under the National Development Plan 2000-2006, the figure allocated to telecommunications initiatives has been significantly increased to 200 million (IR£147 million).
A first call for proposals was run last year and, on foot of submissions received, nine contracts are being implemented resulting in additional investment in the regions in broadband infrastructure. At the beginning of August this year I announced the second call for proposals. The deadline for receipt of proposals was 19 October. Again 55 million (IR£43 million) is available to promote the investment in communications infrastructure. Three programme lines are supported under the present invitation to tender – commercial broadband rollouts; commercial DSL rollout and public projects with economic development and social objectives. Details of this programme are available at www.ndpcomms.gov.ie.
As a result of this second call, 31 proposals have been received. Twenty of these proposals are applications made by local authorities/public bodies. The other 11 are proposals from private sector companies. The proposals are being evaluated by an independent evaluation committee, according to the criteria set out in the invitation to tender document. I have recently invited expressions of interest in building, financing and operating the Atlantic broadband corridor network. These expressions of interest will be sought from the home and international markets. The responses to that invitation will give me a fuller indication of cost, scale, time-line and so forth.

Rory O'Hanlon

Ceist:

201 Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for Public Enterprise the stage of development of the global crossing international project and the Atlantic broadband corridor; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27735/01]

The Government signed a contract with Global Crossing on 2 July 1999 to provide, by mid 2000, seamless access to a high capacity telecommunications network spanning Ireland, 36 European cities and the US for 77,625,400 (approximately £61 million). The network was completed on 26 August 2000 and was capable of delivering the entire 160 STMs (an STM is the ability to transfer data at 155Mb/s) contracted for in addition to the optional 80 STMs provided for under the agreements with Global Crossing. My Department and the IDA entered into contracts with a number of private sector companies to acquire this capacity and thus ensure that the benefits are passed on to the Irish market. Four companies (Eircom, Chorus, Metromedia and Worldport) are currently contracted to use 73 STMs for 38,435,422 (£30,270,355) and 7 STMs have been transferred to the national research network, HEAnet. My Department and the IDA are actively involved in the resale of the remaining 80 STMs. The contract with Global Crossing was further enhanced in May of this year and companies may now swap Dublin-New York capacity for traffic to U.S. cities such as Boston, Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. Also available is sub-STM traffic in Europe as well as bandwidth to Tokyo and Hong Kong. The operation and maintenance charges were also reduced on European capacity from $90,000 per annum to 60,000 per annum.

In an additional initiative, a study was undertaken on behalf of my Department to consider options on addressing certain communications infrastructure gaps throughout the country and to promote competition and reduce the price of broadband services in the West of Ireland. On foot of this study, I sought expressions of interest in designing, building, operating and managing a seamless, world class, high speed telecommunications network linking Northwest to Southwest Ireland, with interconnectivity to existing national networks. The deadline for receipt of these expressions of interest in an Atlantic broadband corridor was 31 October 2001. My officials are currently evaluating the expressions of interest received.

Rory O'Hanlon

Ceist:

202 Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for Public Enterprise the level of broadband available in Counties Monaghan and Cavan; the plans which are in place for further development; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27736/01]

The provision of telecommunications services including broadband services is a matter in the first instance for the companies who now operate in a fully liberalised market. My understanding is that broadband services in Counties Cavan and Monaghan are provided primarily by Eircom. Information available indicates that both Monaghan town and Cavan town have optical fibre nodes and SDH switches on the eircom network. The widest possible availability of competitive services has traditionally been an important objective of Irish telecommunications policy. I have, in recent years, put in place a number of initiatives, which seek to address gaps in communications infrastructure in Ireland, particularly by bringing broadband connectivity to regional and rural areas.

Under the National Development Plan, 2000-2006, 200 million (IR£157 million) have been made available for the roll-out of broadband networks. A first call for proposals was run last year and on foot of submissions received nine contracts which will result in additional investment in the regions in broadband infrastructure. The projects involved will be completed over the next two years and will entail overall investment of 160 million (IR£ 126 million) in broadband leveraged from grant assistance of approximately 55 million (IR£43 million). Among these contracts is the building of a new fibre-optic network by ESB, which will pass through the CavanMonaghan area. A second call for proposals is under way with projects sought from local authorities, and I hope to announce additional projects in the new year.