Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Ceisteanna (28)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

28. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he has satisfied himself that the remaining bidder in the NBP process has the capacity and capability to complete the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7408/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (4 contributions) (Ceist ar Communications)

I want to ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he is satisfied that the remaining bidder in the national broadband plan has the capability and capacity to deliver on what will be a very extensive project of extending high-speed broadband to some 540,000 houses around the country which do not currently have it.

The SSE-Enet, Granahan McCourt and John Laing plc consortium is an expert group with in-depth international experience across the telecoms, engineering and infrastructure sectors in Ireland and across the globe. It was one of three bidders which successfully passed the pre-qualification stage of the national broadband plan. During the pre-qualification phase the Department evaluated the eligibility, economic and financial standing and technical and professional capability of each bidder to provide the services required. The pre-qualification process was designed to assess the suitability of a bidder to deliver the national broadband plan contract requirements.

SSE is Ireland's second largest energy utility and a leading developer and investor in cleaner energy infrastructure. Its UK parent is the largest energy utility provider in the UK. SSE is an expert in energy infrastructure and has significant engineering knowledge. In the UK, SSE has approximately 15 years experience in the telecoms and broadband industries where it has developed and operates almost 14,000 km of high capacity fibre optic networks.

Enet has operated the metropolitan access networks, MANs, on behalf of my Department since 2004. The MANs are State owned open-access fibre networks in 94 regional towns and cities. Enet operates as a wholesale provider of duct and sub-duct rental, dark fibre, managed services and co-location on the MANs network. Separately, Enet has spent 13 years building up both a fibre and wireless infrastructure in Ireland, which covers over 5,000 km of open-access fibre, gigabit ethernet and SDH managed services.

Granahan McCourt Capital is a Dublin-based technology, media and telecommunications investment group. John Laing plc is an international business with long-term experience in infrastructure roll-out, including public private partnerships in the UK, Europe, Asia Pacific and North America.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

As I stated, this consortium qualified in the initial stages of the procurement process and has robustly engaged with the national broadband plan specialist procurement team since then.

 

I thank the Minister for his response. One does not have to be from Roscommon, the west or some very isolated rural part of Ireland to need the national broadband plan to deliver. I am acutely aware of that from my constituents in Kildare South, whether one is young or old, running a small business or has the ability to work from home a few days a week instead of clogging up the M7 and the M50, with the corresponding improvement to quality of life.

I want to recognise the role that the national broadband plan has played to date. While 19% of premises in south Kildare require State intervention, the €2.75 billion private investment in the last five years has provided momentum for this plan. If the consortium is successful in its roll-out, will it start in more than one place? The next row might be where the consortium would start and where it would finish, as there might be years between those points. There is a need for more than one location where this plan will start from. There should be at least three or four locations around the country, so that every county, including Kildare, would see the national broadband plan being rolled out at a very early stage.

Just as the Eir roll-out is happening in every county across the country at the same time, this project - the State intervention phase of the national broadband plan - will be rolled out across the country simultaneously. The broadband offices in each of the local authorities are working, through Minister Ring's Department, to designate the programme of build-out in each local authority. The intention is that it would happen in the first year right across the country.

Based on the rate of building under the Eir roll-out, in which high-speed broadband is being delivered to approximately 40,000 premises every quarter, we expect that type of momentum once the consortium is up and running to achieve similar targets across the country and for the substantial bulk of the network to be built out within three years.