The National Development Plan sets out the investment priorities that will underpin the successful implementation of the National Planning Framework (NPF). The National Broadband Plan (NBP) is included in the National Development Plan as one of those priorities. The NBP aims to ensure high speed broadband access (minimum 30 megabits per second) to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location. The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. Today, almost 7 out of 10 of the 2.3 million premises in Ireland have access to high speed broadband. Since this Government came into office almost 400,000 additional premises have access to high speed broadband. This will increase to nearly 8 out of 10 premises by the end of this year and by 2020, 9 out of 10 premises will have access to a high speed broadband connection. This is being achieved via a combination of commercial investment and a State led intervention.
My Department is in a formal procurement process to engage a company who will roll-out a new high speed broadband network in the State intervention area. That procurement process is now in its final stages.
When the procurement process reaches a satisfactory conclusion and a subsidy level has been approved by Government, a contract will be awarded and the network rollout will commence. Current estimates for rollout indicate the majority of premises in the State intervention area will have access to a high speed broadband connection within 3 years of the beginning of rollout.
In the interim, practical initiatives will continue to be addressed through the work of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce to address obstacles and improve connectivity in respect of existing and future mobile phone and broadband services.
Under this Taskforce, engagement between telecommunications operators and local authorities through the Broadband Officers is continuing to strengthen. These Broadband Officers are acting as single points of contact in local authorities for their communities. The appointment of these officers is already reaping rewards in terms of ensuring a much greater degree of consistency in engagements with operators and clearing obstacles to developing infrastructure. There is a link to a list of these local Broadband Officers on my Department's website.