Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Ceisteanna (22)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

22. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his Department has conducted any independent monitoring of the functioning of the national broadband scheme to ensure that subscribers are achieving the specified upload, download speeds and contention ratios; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11506/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The broadband service contracted under National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is a basic, affordable, scalable product in keeping with EU State Aid clearance for the Scheme in September 2007. Under the terms of the contract which my Department has in place with Hutchison 3G Ireland Ltd (trading as “3”), the NBS broadband service has been available to all premises within the designated 1028 Electoral Divisions since October 2010.A comprehensive assessment of the solution proposed by “3” was carried by a team of experts, including independent consultants Analysys Mason, to ensure that it would deliver the minimum contractual service levels.

During the rollout of services, the level of coverage at Electoral Divisions level was modelled and verified by consultants appointed by my Department prior to certification of enablement. This verification work included the assessment of coverage measurements taken on the ground in 20% of the Electoral Divisions each month. These coverage measurements continue to be provided and analysed throughout the contract period. Procedures underpinning the ongoing monitoring of coverage, network performance and service delivery were designed as part of the contract. Detailed statistical reports, including traffic and utilisation network data in respect of each element of the network, service parameters such as network availability, speeds, contention and latency are submitted by “3” and analysed by my Department on a monthly basis. Upgrades of the network and its capacity are automatically triggered at contractually agreed levels of traffic to ensure that the quality of the broadband service is maintained.

My officials operate a dedicated NBS mailbox, which NBS customers can contact by email at nationalbroadbandscheme@dcenr.gov.ie, with any comments or complaints they may have about their NBS service. My Department will then liaise with “3” personnel at its Head Office in Dublin to remedy any service performance issues and ensure that the service delivered is within the specified limits.

On a periodic basis, my Department conducts its own field tests of the service levels received at premises of those customers who have contacted my Department in relation to their service performance. The findings of the Department's field tests are the subject of formal response by “3” and remedial measures are taken, where necessary, to ensure that all NBS customers enjoy the quality of broadband service foreseen in the NBS contract. Furthermore, on an annual basis, my Department undertakes a detailed audit of NBS implementation which includes a technical, financial and systems audit as well as inspection of a serving mast site.

The NBS contract guarantees service levels and imposes a service credit regime on “3”, with significant financial consequences in the event that minimum specification service levels are not met. The NBS contract also provides that where NBS customers do not receive the minimum guaranteed service, as set out in the terms and conditions of their contract, they are entitled to service rebates. I am satisfied that through the combination of monitoring activities and oversight of 3’s contractual obligations, my Department can ensure that NBS subscribers are receiving the minimum specified service levels.