I propose to take Questions Nos. 31 and 43 together.
I am glad to return the topic of the national broadband plan and to speak on the matter of broadband services in counties Cavan and Monaghan in particular. As I have related to the House previously, I am only too aware of the impact a lack of reliable high-speed broadband has on the ability of citizens to carry out important tasks in their daily lives. I fully acknowledge the impact this has on people in Cavan and Monaghan which, along with my own county of Roscommon and County Galway, are among the areas with the lowest percentage of premises having access to high-speed broadband. I am certain the Deputies’ constituents have voiced their frustrations and concerns on this matter just as strongly as mine. The importance of this service to all citizens underpins the Government's continued commitment to the national broadband plan.
Some 19,500 premises in County Cavan and 15,000 in County Monaghan currently have access to high-speed broadband. Approximately 2,300 of those in County Cavan and 2,000 of those in County Monaghan received that access via the ongoing commercial roll-out by Eir. The roll-out is subject to a commitment agreement I entered into with the company in April 2017 in regard to its plans to provide high-speed broadband to 300,000 premises in rural areas on a commercial basis. Eir has committed to completing the roll-out by the end of this year. A further 5,500 premises in Cavan and 2,500 in Monaghan are to be completed as part of that ongoing roll-out. The remaining 17,000 premises in Cavan, and 15,500 in Monaghan, will receive a high-speed broadband connection via the national broadband plan State intervention phase.
My Department is in the final stages of a formal procurement process to select a company that will roll out a new high-speed broadband network in the State intervention area. The Department will engage with the bidder to ensure the most efficient deployment as part of the contract. The intention is that will be deployed across the country at the same time.
In the interim, practical initiatives will continue to be addressed through the ongoing work of the mobile phone and broadband task force to address obstacles and improve connectivity in respect of existing and future mobile phone and broadband services. Of the 40 actions identified by the task force for 2017, some 29 have been completed. Work on the remaining 11, along with 23 new measures, is part of the 2018 work programme of the task force and will lead to further improvements in services for consumers, including those in Cavan and Monaghan.
Under the task force, engagement between telecommunications operators and local authorities through broadband officers continues apace. The broadband officers act 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.