The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). The enabling of exchanges to provide DSL broadband is a matter for the service providers.
The facilitation of broadband coverage across the entire country continues to be a key priority. I am aware that, despite Government and private investment in broadband, there are areas of the country where the private sector is unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband connectivity. Accordingly, I have announced a new scheme which will aim to provide a broadband service to these areas. This scheme will, when it is fully rolled out, ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband from houses and premises in rural areas are met.
A Steering Group comprising officials from my Department and ComReg is currently considering all elements of the proposed scheme and work on the design of an appropriate tender will commence in the coming weeks. This scheme will be confined to areas of the country that are not yet served by any broadband service provider, currently thought to be 10-15% of the population.
Under the joint industry/Government initiative, which established the Broadband for Schools programme, high speed broadband connectivity is being provided to all primary and post primary schools in the country at no cost to the schools themselves. 96.8% of schools have broadband installed to date.