Question No. 111 answered with Question No. 99.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Ceisteanna (112)

Jack Wall

Ceist:

112. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a carer's allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21766/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 3 February 2014. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought from the Department of Social Protection. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 29 April 2014 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Film Industry Development

Ceisteanna (113)

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

113. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he issued a letter to the German Embassy seeking to advance a bilateral agreement on film co-production; if he received a response from the German Ambassador; if he will outline the German position on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21691/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Arts)

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos 100 – 105 of 1 May 2014 in relation to this matter. My Department is following up on the matter of the response referred to.

Inland Waterways Maintenance

Ceisteanna (114)

Jack Wall

Ceist:

114. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if Waterways Ireland is aware of the serious condition of Binn's Canal Bridge, Robertstown, County Kildare; if so, the actions planned by Waterways Ireland to repair the bridge; if Waterways Ireland has had any meetings with Kildare County Council in regard to the road on the bridge and the lead-in and exit from the bridge; if so, the results of such meetings; the actions taken or proposed; if Waterways Ireland is aware of the major concerns of the local Tidy Towns committee in regard to the condition of the bridge in regard to its possible closure and the effect that such a closure would have on the business and sporting and community life of the village; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21728/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Arts)

I am informed by Waterways Ireland that it is aware of the condition of the road ramp leading up to Binn's Canal Bridge, Robertstown, and has been in discussions with Kildare County Council in relation to that matter. I am also advised that Waterways Ireland is currently developing design proposals for repairs to the supporting wall, which will also require further discussion with Kildare County Council before implementation.

As the Deputy is aware, Kildare County Council is the road authority for the area. Should they wish to close part of the road or undertake any earlier road repair, Waterways Ireland will work with Kildare County Council in this regard.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (115, 118, 119)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

115. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will include Cullion, Mullingar, County Westmeat in the list of areas to receive the major fibre build-up - currently there is a box servicing Brookfield, Mullingar and the wider area. This box is only 2.5 miles from Cullion and would be ideally placed to be extended; if fibre power broadband was extended to Cullion, it would service a school, two sports clubs and approximately 70 houses within a 1 mile radius; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21719/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

118. Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way an area (details supplied) in County Tipperary can be considered for inclusion on the rural broadband strategy announced on 25 April 2014 as they are currently not listed for inclusion; when the area will be included for high speed broadband; the reason the area did not feature on the list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21809/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

119. Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when an area (details supplied) in County Tipperary will be considered for inclusion on the rural broadband strategy announced on 25 April, 2014 as they are presently not listed for inclusion; when the area will be included for high speed broadband, the reason the area did not feature on the list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21810/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 115, 118 and 119 together.

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 intervention 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. Commercial operators combined have either invested, or committed to invest, over €2 billion in their Irish networks, delivering high speed broadband to homes and businesses. For example:

- Eircom is rolling out a €400m investment in a Next Generation Access Fibre Network that offers speeds of up to 100Mbps. Service is already available to over 800,000 addresses, with planned coverage to reach 1.4m addresses by 2016.

- UPC has invested over €500m in upgrading its cable network. Over 700,000 homes can already access minimum broadband speeds of 120Mbps and up to 200Mbps. Businesses can access speeds of 500Mbps.

- ESB is engaged in a new project allowing a fibre network to be rolled-out on its existing electricity infrastructure. It is understood that discussions between ESB and Vodafone to form a new Joint Venture Company are at an advanced stage. The company has initial plans to construct a fibre network directly to 450,000 premises outside of Dublin and it is expected that details will be announced over the coming weeks.

- Mobile operators have launched 4G high speed mobile broadband services following ComReg’s multiband spectrum auction. There has also been continued investment by all operators in enhancing and broadening 3G services and network improvements.

- Fixed wireless operators are continuing to invest in high speed point-to-point wireless broadband.

- The broadcaster Sky has entered the broadband market, increasing choice for consumers.

Of the estimated 2.3m premises in Ireland, approximately 1.4m are expected to be served by these commercial next generation broadband services over the coming years.

This accelerated roll out of high speed services by the commercial sector means that the addressable area required by the State intervention has been reduced by 30% since the National Broadband Plan was launched. While the commercial developments are welcome the acceleration of investment is largely contained to cities and towns. The speeds that are available in these areas are demonstrably better than those that are available in more rural areas.

On 25 April, I signalled the Government's commitment to a major telecommunications network build-out to rural Ireland, with fibre as the foundation of its investment under the National Broadband Plan. This commitment is a clear expression of Government’s determination to address the connectivity challenge in rural Ireland in a meaningful and sustainable way.

Central to the strategy will be a fibre build-out to locations in every county in the State identified as having no existing or planned enabling fibre network. It is intended that the fibre will be delivered directly to access points for homes and businesses, where service providers can utilise the fibre to provide high speed services to end users. The fibre build-out will also ensure that fibre is deployed to strategic locations on each route such as schools, business hubs and health facilities. The fibre build out will be part of an end-to-end strategy that will address all parts of Ireland that cannot access commercial high speed broadband services.

I have published a county-by-county list of towns and villages which have already been identified for a fibre build-out. This is an indicative list and is subject to the completion of the comprehensive mapping process currently underway. Further locations may be identified as this process continues. Similarly, it may be determined that some locations on the list will be addressed by the commercial sector and will therefore not require State intervention. Currently I envisage that a total of 39 areas in County Westmeath and 79 areas in County Tipperary will be included in the proposed fibre build-out. The list is available on my Department's website www.dcenr.gov.ie .

In tandem with the fibre build-out, the Strategy will include measures to respond to aggregated community demand for services, and the provision of access services in the most remote areas where fibre rollout may be insufficient to stimulate commercial investment or may be cost-prohibitive.

Intensive design work is ongoing in the Department with a view to publishing an end-to-end implementation strategy later this year, together with the outcome of the mapping exercise which will identify the areas that require intervention. A full public consultation will take place once the strategy is published and EU State Aids clearance will be required for the intervention strategy once finalised. It is expected that the detailed procurement process will take place in 2015 with a view to commencing construction of the fibre network and provision of services in the areas that require intervention as quickly as possible.

The EU Commission’s guidelines on state aid for high speed broadband infrastructure preclude member states from intervening in regions in which private investors have demonstrated plans to roll out their own infrastructure within the following three years. In this regard it is noted that at least one network operator has published a programme to roll out 19 fibre-based broadband networks in County Westmeath and 43 such networks in County Tipperary, including Nenagh, by July 2016.

I fully share the concerns of local representatives about the quality of broadband in rural areas. I intend to ensure that rural Ireland enjoys similar opportunities to urban areas by ensuring an end-to end market intervention with fibre as a core component. In committing to a fibre build-out at the heart of this strategy, the Government is acknowledging that broadband is the key infrastructure of the 21st century.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (116)

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

116. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will examine the poor broadband service in Beaufort, County Kerry; if he will take into consideration the impact it is having on businesses in the area, a number of which operate from home; his views that this is poor service in 2014 and is causing a huge inconvenience to all users and needs to be addressed immediately; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21739/14]

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 intervention for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest.

During the preparation of the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce report, which concluded its deliberations in 2012, service providers noted the importance of planning and consent processes in facilitating the rollout of infrastructure to support the provision of telecommunications services. I would point out that the Local Authority has a strong role to play in facilitating the roll-out of the necessary infrastructure to help enable service availability throughout the Country. In the case of County Kerry, I note that the County Development Plan recommends against siting a mast within 1km of dwellings. I understand that this is contributing to difficulties in providing good quality broadband and telecommunications services generally in the county.

The Government's National Broadband Plan which I subsequently published, commits to addressing barriers to deployment in order to maximise investment by the commercial sector and assist in enhancing the quality of services. Local Authorities have an important role to play in this regard, particularly in facilitating the provision of infrastructure that supports wireless and fixed line services.

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. Commercial operators combined have either invested, or committed to invest, over €2 billion in their Irish networks, delivering high speed broadband to homes and businesses. For example:

- Eircom is rolling out a €400m investment in a Next Generation Access Fibre Network that offers speeds of up to 100Mbps. Service is already available to over 800,000 addresses, with planned coverage to reach 1.4m addresses by 2016.

- UPC has invested over €500m in upgrading its cable network. Over 700,000 homes can already access minimum broadband speeds of 120Mbps and up to 200Mbps. Businesses can access speeds of 500Mbps.

- ESB is engaged in a new project allowing a fibre network to be rolled-out on its existing electricity infrastructure. It is understood that discussions between ESB and Vodafone to form a new Joint Venture Company are at an advanced stage. The company has initial plans to construct a fibre network directly to 450,000 premises outside of Dublin and it is expected that details will be announced over the coming weeks.

- Mobile operators have launched 4G high speed mobile broadband services following ComReg’s multiband spectrum auction. There has also been continued investment by all operators in enhancing and broadening 3G services and network improvements.

- Fixed wireless operators are continuing to invest in high speed point-to-point wireless broadband.

- The broadcaster Sky has entered the broadband market, increasing choice for consumers.

Of the estimated 2.3m premises in Ireland, approximately 1.4m are expected to be served by these commercial next generation broadband services over the coming years.

This accelerated roll out of high speed services by the commercial sector means that the addressable area required by the State intervention has been reduced by 30% since the National Broadband Plan was launched. While the commercial developments are welcome the acceleration of investment is largely contained to cities and towns. The speeds that are available in these areas are demonstrably better than those that are available in more rural areas.

On 25 April, I signalled the Government's commitment to a major telecommunications network build-out to rural Ireland, with fibre as the foundation of its investment under the National Broadband Plan. This commitment is a clear expression of Government’s determination to address the connectivity challenge in rural Ireland in a meaningful and sustainable way.

Central to the strategy will be a fibre build-out to locations in every county in the State identified as having no existing or planned enabling fibre network. It is intended that the fibre will be delivered directly to access points for homes and businesses, where service providers can utilise the fibre to provide high speed services to end users. The fibre build-out will also ensure that fibre is deployed to strategic locations on each route such as schools, business hubs and health facilities. The fibre build out will be part of an end-to-end strategy that will address all parts of Ireland that cannot access commercial high speed broadband services.

I have published a county-by-county list of towns and villages which have already been identified for a fibre build-out. This is an indicative list and is subject to the completion of the comprehensive mapping process currently underway. Further locations may be identified as this process continues. Similarly, it may be determined that some locations on the list will be addressed by the commercial sector and will therefore not require State intervention. Currently I envisage that a total of 59 areas in County Kerry will be included in the proposed fibre build-out. The list is available on my Department's website www.dcenr.gov.ie .

In tandem with the fibre build-out, the Strategy will include measures to respond to aggregated community demand for services, and the provision of access services in the most remote areas where fibre rollout may be insufficient to stimulate commercial investment or may be cost-prohibitive.

Intensive design work is ongoing in the Department with a view to publishing an end-to-end implementation strategy later this year, together with the outcome of the mapping exercise which will identify the areas that require intervention. A full public consultation will take place once the strategy is published and EU State Aids clearance will be required for the intervention strategy once finalised. It is expected that the detailed procurement process will take place in 2015 with a view to commencing construction of the fibre network and provision of services in the areas that require intervention as quickly as possible.

The EU Commission’s guidelines on state aid for high speed broadband infrastructure preclude member states from intervening in regions in which private investors have demonstrated plans to roll out their own infrastructure within the following three years. In this regard it is noted that at least one network operator has published a programme to roll out 33 fibre-based broadband networks in County Kerry, which includes rolling out those services in Beaufort by July 2016.

I fully share the concerns of local representatives about the quality of broadband in rural areas. I intend to ensure that rural Ireland enjoys similar opportunities to urban areas by ensuring an end-to end market intervention with fibre as a core component. In committing to a fibre build-out at the heart of this strategy, the Government is acknowledging that broadband is the key infrastructure of the 21st century.

Post Office Network

Questions Nos. 118 and 119 answered with Question No. 115.

Ceisteanna (117)

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

117. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will safeguard the post office network and ensure it remains viable by allowing social welfare recipients the option of carrying out their business in post offices; if he will explore the possibility of new additional businesses to ensure post offices remain at the heart of community life; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21748/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I refer to the reply to Priority Question No. 111 [19991/14] of 6 May 2014. The position is unchanged.

Questions Nos. 118 and 119 answered with Question No. 115.