I propose to take Questions Nos. 249 and 269 together.
Since the publication of the National Competitiveness Council report there have been a number of significant developments which should lead to a greater take up of the Internet and broadband services and improve Ireland's international ranking. A number of communications companies offering DSL services have recently announced major reductions in the prices of their broadband services bringing the cost of DSL in line with the European norm.
In accordance with the provisions of the Communications Regulation Act, 2002, on 21 February last I issued a set of policy directions to the Commission for Communications Regulation focusing on a number of key policy priorities for the commission in the short to medium term, including the introduction of flat-rate Internet access call origination, known as FRIACO. This will be introduced before the end of June 2003.
The provision, promotion and pricing of communications infrastructure and services, including Internet access, is a matter for the private sector companies that operate in the fully liberalised telecommunications market. My responsibility is for public policy in the sector within which these companies operate. The widest possible availability of competitive services has traditionally been an important objective of Irish telecommunications policy.
To accelerate the delivery of faster and cheaper communications services throughout the country by the private sector, my Department has run a number of programmes of targeted intervention in recent years.
Under the national development plan 2000-2006, approximately €200 million was allocated under the two regional communications and e-commerce measures. Funding under these measures is intended to leverage and accelerate investment in competitive advanced information and communications infrastructure and services.