Broadcasting Legislation

Ceisteanna (21, 33, 36)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

21. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to amend the Broadcasting Act 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11501/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

33. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he intends to introduce an amendment to section 39 of the Broadcasting Act 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11502/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

36. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress he has made to date in drafting legislation to better regulate the broadcast and electronic media in the State; if he will outline the main regulatory gaps which he feels must be addressed by new legislation in the area; if there is a specific timeframe he is working towards to introduce the new legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11641/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21, 33 and 36 together.

There are a range of legislative proposals currently under consideration in my Department which will require amendment of the Broadcasting Act 2009. The Programme for Government commits to examining the role and collection of the TV Licence fee and to the introduction of a household based Public Service Broadcasting Charge, to be applied to all eligible households and applicable businesses regardless of the device used to access content or services. As the Deputy will appreciate, the introduction of an alternative method of funding for public service broadcasting would require legislative underpinning.

In conjunction with this, I am considering possible amendments in relation to certain administrative and operational issues identified in the period since the Act came into effect. While a certain amount of work has been undertaken in this regard, these proposals are still being developed.

One such amendment is the proposed amendment to section 39, which I mentioned in the Dáil recently. At present, this section requires every broadcaster to ensure that nothing is broadcast that may reasonably be regarded as causing offence. In my view, this seems to be an unfeasibly rigorous approach. Some people may be easily offended, even where offence was not intended and is not objectively ascertainable. The amendment I am considering would require broadcasters to avoid causing ‘undue offence’, which seems to me to be more objective and more in tune with the realities of public debate.

The legislative proposals under consideration also include the requisite legislative measures to implement the Government Decision following the completion of the 5 Year Review of public funding for Public Service Broadcasters last year, including a new system of determining the adequacy of funding for public service broadcasters and a revision of the current governance arrangements for advertising minutage.

In addition to the measures outlined above, work is continuing on the New ERA efficiency review of RTE as well as on the economic assessment of the advertising market, currently being conducted by Indecon. The outcomes of both these reviews may potentially lead to additional legislative proposals. Once I have given due consideration to the proposals, and subject to Government consideration, it is my intention to forward the draft Heads of Bill to the Joint Committee for pre-legislative scrutiny.

Broadband Service Speeds

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.

Fisheries Protection

Ceisteanna (23)

Michael Colreavy

Ceist:

23. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if studies have been carried out into reopening inland eel fishing here; if studies have been carried out into restocking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11492/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

As I indicated in reply to Question No. 19 [4297/14] of 30 January last, surplus elver recruits were not identified in scientific reviews as regards Ireland's Eel Management Plan (EMP) for the 2012-2015 period to facilitate a stocking programme. Because of this and for the other reasons set out in that reply, stocking is not included as a management action in Ireland’s Eel Management Plan (EMP) compiled under the EU Eel regulation (1100/2007).

The EMP will be reviewed again in 2015 with a comprehensive scientific assessment of eel stocks nationally and all elements, including the potential for stocking, can be considered at that stage based on an additional three years of scientific and management advice. The current advice, given in 2013, of the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) states that ‘the efficacy of restocking for recovering the stock remains uncertain while evidence of net benefit is lacking.’

Energy Regulation

Ceisteanna (24)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

24. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps that he is taking to address Gate access to the national grid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10854/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Supervision of the Gate process is vested in the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). The Gate process has been designed by the CER specifically to meet Ireland’s national renewable target of 40% of electricity supplied from renewable sources by 2020. It is estimated that around 4,000 MW of renewable generation will be required to meet this target. At the end of 2013 there was over 2,300 MW of renewable generation connected to the grid. The Gate 3 offer and acceptance process concluded late last year, except for a small number of offers which remain live. I understand that around 3,000 MW of generation, mostly renewable, has accepted connection offers.

The CER is currently commencing the process of reviewing the connection and access policy for renewable and non-renewable generators to the grid, post Gate 3. The CER aims to publish a public consultation paper on the new connection policy for renewable and non-renewable generators in Quarter 2, 2014. In developing this policy, consideration will be given to Ireland’s renewable targets, the requirements of system operators and the likely rate of build out of Gate 3 connections. This consultation will also take account of learnings from the Gate 3 process. As yet, the CER has not taken any decisions on the nature, scale or criteria for connection and access policy post Gate 3.

Electric Vehicle Grants

Ceisteanna (25)

Ciara Conway

Ceist:

25. Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to introduce additional incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7722/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

In April 2011, I opened the Electric Vehicle Grant Scheme to incentivise and support, through grants of up to €5,000, the early deployment of electric vehicles in Ireland. These grants are in addition to the VRT reliefs of up to €5,000 which apply to electric vehicles. This support scheme will remain open for this year and I have no plans, at this stage, to introduce any new financial incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles. Additionally, the ESB, through its ecars programme, is continuing to roll out both publicly accessible charging infrastructure and domestic charge points. My Department understands that the ESB intends to have in place this year at least 1,000 publicly accessible charge points in all main towns and cities, as well as 60 fast chargers on major roads.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (26, 27)

Michelle Mulherin

Ceist:

26. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans for links to be made to the Emerald Express transatlantic fibre-optic cable which it is proposed will make landfall near Killala, County Mayo, to improve broadband connectivity to Killala, Ballina, Crossmolina, Foxford, Swinford and Belmullet and rural Mayo as envisaged by the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10953/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michelle Mulherin

Ceist:

27. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide details of the plans and consents issued to develop the proposed Emerald Express transatlantic fibre-optic cable from the United States to make landfall in Killala, County Mayo; the plans being pursued by his Department in conjunction with all stakeholders, including private broadband service providers, towards ensuring and maximising connectivity for towns like Killala, Ballina and Crossmolina in the immediate vicinity and throughout County Mayo including the town of Belmullet where it was initially suggested the cable could make landfall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10849/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 26 and 27 together.

Any consents and permissions required for the landing of this cable are a matter for the Company, the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government and the Local Authority. I have no function in that regard.

My Department has secured State Aid approval to bring the telecommunications ducts laid alongside the Galway-Mayo gas pipeline into use. A project has commenced to test these ducts with a view to bringing them into use as soon as possible. It is envisaged that fibre in these ducts will be available to commercial service providers in areas where next generation access is not currently available. It is intended that a number of interconnection points will be provided which will allow network operators to bring connectivity from neighbouring towns to this fibre. The ducts may also be used to facilitate interconnectivity projects such as that proposed by Emerald Express.

The Government’s National Broadband Plan, which I published in August 2012, aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed broadband is available to all citizens and businesses. This will be achieved by providing:

- a policy and regulatory framework that assists in accelerating and incentivising commercial investment, and

- a State-led investment for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest.

Since the publication of the Plan, investments by the commercial sector are underway and in some instances have been accelerated in both fixed line and wireless high speed broadband services. These developments have been facilitated through the implementation of measures in the National Broadband Plan, including the conclusion of ComReg's multiband spectrum auction, and the new regulatory regime for fixed line Next Generation Access and service bundles. Both of these measures are designed to incentivise the rollout of services by operators.

In tandem with these developments, intensive work is underway in my Department to progress a State-led investment to secure the countrywide introduction of next generation broadband access. In order to progress the State-led investment for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest, a full procurement process must be designed and EU State Aids approval must be obtained. My Department is engaged in a comprehensive mapping exercise of the current and anticipated investment by the commercial sector over the coming years, the results of which will inform the areas that need to be targeted in the State-led investment as envisaged in the National Broadband Plan.

Intensive technical, financial and legal preparations, including stakeholder engagement, are on-going. Issues regarding obligations which might be placed on any potential contractor to be engaged as a result of the procurement process will be considered as part of the detailed design of the intervention. It is my intention to publish the map showing existing and planned next generation broadband coverage, along with the Government's proposals for the intervention, later this year. The procurement process for the approved intervention will be carried out in accordance with EU and Irish procurement rules and it is expected that it will be launched later in 2014.

I am aware that at least one commercial operator has launched next generation broadband services in Mayo, and announced plans to bring these services to additional towns over the next two years. Through the combination of commercial investment, the State led investment envisaged in the National Broadband Plan and the initiative to bring the Galway-Mayo ducting into use I am confident that the towns of Killala, Ballina, Crossmolina, Foxford, Swinford and Belmullet, and all areas across Mayo, will have access to high speed broadband. The ultimate goal is to ensure that all citizens and businesses participate fully in a digitally enabled economy and society. I believe that all these developments will enhance the availability of broadband in Mayo.

Environmental Investigations

Ceisteanna (28)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

28. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will outline the findings of his Department's report on the development of a sinkhole near Galmoy Mines in County Kilkenny; if he is concerned at this development; the inspections his Department carries out on mines operating here; how regular are these inspections and what they entail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10962/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Officials from my Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and Kilkenny County Council met recently with Galmoy Mines Ltd., representatives of the parent company Lundin Mining, and their expert hydrogeological and geotechnical support, to review initial investigations into the recent appearance of a sinkhole on farmland overlying part of the former underground workings of Galmoy mine. I understand the three Statutory agencies are reassured by the progress on the company's approach.

I am advised that the preliminary findings of this investigation show it was most likely caused by the following:

- the presence of natural near-surface cavities;

- the increased potential for washout in the existing fissure caused by the lowering of the water table during historic mining activity; and

- the recent exceptional rainfall.

The company proposes to remediate the sinkhole in liaison with the local landowner at the landowner's convenience. Further investigations and assessments are continuing and it is expected that these will be completed by the end of March. The technical assessment undertaken to date indicates that there are no further public safety issues arising. The position will continue to be monitored at least until investigations are completed.

With regard to the inspection of operating mines, AMEC Earth & Environmental (UK) Ltd are contracted by my Department to undertake on-going inspections of mine sites and records. This includes regular physical inspections of mining operations, both on surface and underground, to monitor mining activities and examine plans and records, to ensure compliance with terms and conditions of those leases and licences and adherence to best practice.

Biannual inspections are undertaken of each of the main State Mining Facilities, including the closed Galmoy mine. The next scheduled inspection will be undertaken in April. In addition to this statutory inspection regime, my Departmental officials continue to monitor mining operations on an ongoing basis.

EU Directives

Ceisteanna (29, 299)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

29. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the efforts he has made during his term of office to change the ruling by the EU that all tenders for rural broadband must be technology neutral; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10851/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

299. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the policy of the EU that all tenders for the provision of rural broadband should be on a technology neutral basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11503/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 299 together.

The requirement for technological neutrality within the EU telecommunications market is established by Article 8 of “Directive 2002/21/EC of 7 March 2002 on a Common Regulatory Framework for Electronic Communications Networks and Services”. This provision reflects the growing convergence of technologies, products and services which can encourage increased competition and improve the functioning of the internal EU telecommunications market. Any proposal to amend a current EU legislative Act is a matter for the EU Commission in the first instance, in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure established by Article 294 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

In designing the procurement process for an intervention in the market under the National Broadband Plan, my Department will be required to comply with the EU State aid rules which set out conditionality in relation to, among other things, technology neutrality. As different technological solutions exist to provide broadband services, no particular technology or network platform should be excluded. The EU State Aid guidelines do, however, emphasise the role of fibre in assisting the delivery of high speed broadband through various platforms and emphasise the importance of having fibre close to the end-user premises. All operators recognise the importance of fibre in the network and commercial operators such as Eircom and UPC for example rely on fibre as a significant component in their next generation networks even though the final access into the premises is not necessarily over fibre.

Broadcasting Sector Regulation

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 11.

Ceisteanna (30)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

30. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the plans he has to reform the 50-50 time allocation by broadcasters at referendums; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10965/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Broadcasting Act 2009 provides for the establishment of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) as the independent regulator responsible for the oversight of compliance in relation to broadcast content in the State. One of the objectives of the Authority, set out in Section 25(b) is to ensure “that the democratic values enshrined in the Constitution, especially those relating to rightful liberty of expression, are upheld”. Section 39 of the 2009 Act provides for the duties of broadcasters and includes duties, for example, in relation to objectivity and impartiality in news and current affairs. In the discharge of its functions, the BAI is required, under Section 42, to draw up Broadcasting Codes on the standards and practice to be observed by Broadcasters and for compliance matters. In the context of these statutory provisions, the BAI has recently developed Guidelines in Respect of Coverage of Referenda, to be read in conjunction with the Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs.

It is incumbent upon the BAI and all broadcasters in the State, to ensure that they adhere to these Guidelines, as well as to the spirit and letter of the relevant judicial rulings in this area. The basis for the practice whereby broadcasters feel constrained to give 50% of airtime to both sides of a referendum campaign derives from an interpretation of the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Coughlan v. The Broadcasting Complaints Commission and RTÉ, rather than in any legislative provision or guidance from the Authority. I have no plans, therefore, to amend the existing legislation in this area. However, as I have said elsewhere, I would invite the BAI and the public service and commercial broadcasters to consider what further refinements can be made to the Guidelines in Respect of Coverage of Referenda, while respecting the strictures of the Supreme Court judgment.

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 11.

Electricity Transmission Network

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 21.

Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 8.

Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 11

Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 21

Ceisteanna (32)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

32. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide an update on EirGrid’s Grid25 plans; if the North-South interconnector will be part of the overall review of Grid25; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10966/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I refer to the reply to Priority Question No. 5 on today's Order Paper.

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 21.
Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 8.
Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 11.
Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 21.

Energy Prices

Ceisteanna (37)

Seán Kyne

Ceist:

37. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to examine, in the context of energy efficiency and the economic benefits which can accrue, implementing a system which would reduce the energy bills of small businesses, community groups or schools who install micro-generating wind power turbines in order to reflect the value of the level of unused electricity fed back into the national grid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11498/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Currently, a number of supports are available for micro generation for domestic and commercial consumers. As regards domestic customers, Electric Ireland has been offering a micro generation feed in tariff since February 2009. To date no other electricity supplier has chosen to provide such a tariff, to either domestic or commercial customers, though they have been invited by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) to do so. As regards support for micro generation for commercial bodies, tax relief is available on capital investment in micro generation assets under Section 486B of the Tax Consolidation Act (1997) (as amended) and under the Employment and Investment Incentive Scheme.

Analysis of the potential of microgeneration technologies such as small scale wind, solar and small scale hydro, has been carried out for my Department by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). Their findings are informing consideration of whether it would be cost effective to provide a market support for microgeneration in the context of achieving our EU 2020 target for renewable energy.

Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and gas markets is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body. Therefore, I do not have a statutory function in regard to the setting of electricity tariffs, whether in the regulated or non-regulated market.

Petroleum and Gas Exploration

Ceisteanna (38)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

38. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the tenders process for the provision of expert advice on Ireland's oil and gas exploration development and production fiscal terms has been completed; the amount of oil and gas that was produced here in 2013; the amount of revenue received by the State from this production and exploration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10963/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Following a public procurement process, my Department has selected international oil and gas experts Wood Mackenzie to advise on the “fitness-for-purpose” of Ireland’s current oil and gas fiscal terms. In 2013 there was no commercial production of oil in the Irish offshore, however the total gross production from gas fields, namely the Kinsale, Ballycotton and Seven Heads fields off the coast of Cork, was 6.95 billion cubic feet. The revenue generated for the State from the production from these gas fields is received in the form of rental fees, royalty payments (with the exception of the Seven Heads Gas field) and corporation tax.

Profits from the three gas fields are taxed at a corporation rate of 25%. In addition, royalties from the Kinsale and Ballycotton gas fields are payable to the State at a rate of 12.5% of the fair market value of the gas at the well head. The combination of tax, royalties and rental fees currently provides for a State take of 40% of net income from these two fields. Royalties are not payable on production from the Seven Heads Gas field as Ireland moved away from a royalty based payments system to a tax based system in 1987.

The rental fees figure for 2013 for three gas fields totalled €768,466. The royalties figure attributable to production in 2013 from the two gas fields will not be finalised until later this year. The amount paid in tax in respect of the three gas fields is a matter between the companies concerned and the Revenue Commissioners.

Commission for Energy Regulation

Ceisteanna (39)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

39. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the instructions he has issued to ComReg to investigate the noted unlicensed transmission identified by the reported broadcast of a UK GSM cellular ID in the Middle Abbey Street area, near the GSOC HQ in the Verrimus report. [10848/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) is the statutory body responsible for the management of spectrum in Ireland. ComReg is independent in the exercise of its functions and is accountable directly to the Oireachtas in accordance with Section 34 of the Communications Regulation Act 2002. The investigation of any alleged unlicensed radio transmissions including any subsequent remedial actions is a function of ComReg and I have no function in this matter.

The Government has appointed retired High Court Judge John Cooke to conduct an Independent Inquiry into Reports of Unlawful Surveillance of the Garda Ombudsman Commission and to report within eight weeks or as soon as may be thereafter. The Terms of Reference, which were agreed by Government on the advice of the Attorney General, are in the public domain, and include a review and assessment of any evidence of a security breach or attempted security breach at the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (40)

David Stanton

Ceist:

40. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide details of progress with the national broadband plan; when he expects to be in a position to tender for the State-led investment part of the plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11657/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Government’s National Broadband Plan, which I published in August 2012, aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed broadband is available to all citizens and businesses. This will be achieved by providing:

- a policy and regulatory framework that assists in accelerating and incentivising commercial investment, and

- a State-led investment for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest.

Since the publication of the Plan, investments by the commercial sector are underway and in some instances have been accelerated in both fixed line and wireless high speed broadband services. In the fixed line segment of the market, Eircom has announced plans to pass 1.4m addresses with its next generation broadband service, with speeds of up to 100Mbps, while UPC has increased its entry level and maximum speeds to 120Mbps and 200Mbps respectively. Mobile operators have also made announcements regarding network upgrades and are rolling out enhanced product offerings. The ESB Electronic Communications Bill, will, when enacted, enable the ESB to utilise its electricity distribution network to provide telecommunications services and is a further step in promoting investment in competitively priced high speed broadband.

Many of these developments have been facilitated through the implementation of measures in the National Broadband Plan, including the conclusion of ComReg's multiband spectrum auction, and the regulatory regime for fixed line Next Generation Access and service bundles. Both of these measures are designed to incentivise the rollout of services by operators.

In tandem with these developments, intensive work, including a comprehensive mapping exercise, continues in my Department in relation to the State-led investment to secure the countrywide introduction of next generation broadband access. In order to progress the State-led investment for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest, a full procurement process must be designed and EU State Aids approval must be obtained.

Under the national mapping exercise, information has been sought from all undertakings authorised by ComReg in relation to current and planned broadband services, both basic and next generation access (NGA). Mapping data has been submitted to my Department by a total of 23 operators and the process of analysing the data and supporting information is continuing. The mapping data is being assessed on a case-by-case basis, having regard to the EU State Aid Guidelines. When all of the information has been analysed, a clear picture should emerge of coverage throughout all of the country. I expect that this process will be completed later this year, after which it is my intention to publish a map showing existing and planned NGA broadband coverage, along with the Government’s proposals for a State-led intervention to roll out high speed broadband across the country.

The procurement process for the approved intervention will be carried out in accordance with EU and Irish procurement rules and it is expected that it will be launched later in 2014. Through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, I am committed to ensuring that all parts of Ireland have access to high speed broadband, with a view to ensuring that all citizens and businesses can participate fully in, and maximise the benefits of, a digitally enabled economy and society.