I propose to take Questions Nos. 500, 501, 512 and 513 together.
The recent announcements of further commercial investment in high speed broadband infrastructure by telecommunications companies are to be welcomed. Continued commercial investment in tandem with the proposed State led NBP intervention remains vital to ensuring that all premises in Ireland have access to a reliable and future proofed high speed broadband service. I note that in addition to the announcements of planned future investments, there has also been some additional public commentary by commercial operators as to the possible reach of the planned new infrastructure.
My Department monitors the actual deployment of broadband infrastructure by commercial operators across the country and will continue to do so. While I have not had direct engagement with eir in relation to its recent announcement, or subsequent further commentary, my Department has written to the company to arrange a meeting regarding its plans.
In order for premises to be removed from the State intervention area, a commercial operator must make a submission to my Department outlining its plans and commitments to provide these premises with a high speed broadband service. This is consistent with the State aid rules applying to State interventions to ensure the availability of high speed broadband services. Any such submission must satisfy the criteria set down by my Department in the mapping process that was set out in 2015 on my Department’s website, before the NBP procurement process commenced. Details are available at this link https://www.dccae.gov.ie/documents/Managing%20IA%20Map%20-%20Consultation%20Paper%20FINAL%2021-12-15.pdf ).
While eir has not submitted a plan to my Department in relation to its recent announcement, monitoring of commercial plans is an ongoing part of the NBP and proceeds in parallel with the procurement process. The NBP High Speed Broadband Map is dynamic. This means that either during the procurement, or following award of an NBP contract, the intervention area can be updated to reflect new commercial plans, or previous plans that have failed to materialise. This flexibility allows for an increase or decrease in the number of premises included in the State Intervention area.
The State Intervention area for the NBP procurement process contains approximately 540,000 premises. This remains as set out on my Department’s High Speed Broadband Map, available at www.broadband.gov.ie.
The NBP procurement process is in its final stage and I intend to make a recommendation to Government in the coming weeks.