Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Ceisteanna (428)

Heather Humphreys

Ceist:

428. Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the contract for the "3" national broadband service which was awarded in 2008 has been monitored; if the terms of the contract have been fulfilled; if his attention has been drawn to the areas serviced by this contract who still have no broadband service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21007/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The broadband service contracted under National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is a basic, affordable, product in keeping with EU State Aid clearance for the Scheme in September 2007. Broadband services under the NBS are available since October 2010 from “3”, the NBS service provider, to persons with a fixed residence or fixed business in all of the designated 1,028 NBS Electoral Divisions. The NBS service is provided primarily by means of a wireless solution, with the NBS satellite service utilised in a small number of cases for technical reasons associated with the location of the premises. The combination of both the wireless and satellite services ensures that broadband is available throughout the NBS coverage area.

My Department has well-established monitoring arrangements in place to ensure that the NBS delivers the minimum specified service or better to all users. Throughout the period of the contract detailed statistical reports, including traffic and utilisation data and service parameters including network availability, speeds, contention and latency are submitted by “3” and analysed by my Department. 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.

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 serving sites.

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. 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 contractual limits.