The provision of broadband services is, in the first instance, a matter for the private sector. Broadband service providers operate in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).
The widespread provision of broadband services continues to be a priority for the Government. There are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband services. In order to address this issue the procurement process for a National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is currently under way. The NBS will provide broadband services to areas that are currently unserved and will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband in unserved areas are met.
The procurement process is being undertaken pursuant to the European Communities (Award of Public Authorities' Contracts) Regulations 2006 using a competitive dialogue procurement process.
The first phase of the procurement process (Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ)) is now complete, and four Candidates have pre-qualified to enter the next phase of the procurement process. As my Department indicated on 2 September 2007, the four candidates are, in alphabetical order, BT Communications Ireland Ltd Consortium, eircom Ltd, Hutchinson 3G Ireland Ltd and IFA/Motorola Consortium.
The Department has invited these remaining to participate in the Competitive Dialogue procurement process and the candidates are due to present their proposed solutions to meet the Department's requirements for the delivery of broadband to the unserved areas of the country. It is anticipated that a preferred bidder will be selected and appointed in June 2008.