I propose to take Questions Nos. 234 and 242, to 244, inclusive, together.
The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure high speed broadband access to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location. This is being achieved via a combination of commercial investment and a State led intervention.
The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. In 2012, less than 700,000, or 30% of all 2.3 million Irish premises had access to high speed broadband. When this Government came into office, this had risen to 52%. Today, 74% of premises can access high speed broadband.
Commercial operators have invested over €2.75bn in upgrading and modernising their networks over the past 5 years, and further investments are planned.
Under a Commitment Agreement signed with my Department in April 2017, eir is in the process of passing 300,000 predominantly rural homes with high speed broadband. According to information submitted by eir to my Department, as of Quarter 4 2018 the company has passed some 225,000 premises nationwide as part of its ongoing deployment. This is in the process of verification by officials in my Department.
Information on eir's planned rural deployment is available on that company’s website, http://fibrerollout.ie/Eircode-lookup/. A copy of the Commitment Agreement is available on my Department’s website, www.dccae.gov.ie.
The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. My priority is to bring the procurement process to a fair and impartial conclusion as quickly as possible and I will bring a recommendation to Government in this regard in the coming weeks.
For those premises currently awaiting access to high speed broadband, 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. 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.