Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Ceisteanna (62)

Oral answers (5 contributions) (Ceist ar Communications)

Deputy Timmy Dooley has been given permission to take Question No. 62 in the name of Deputy Ó Cuív.

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

62. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when the national broadband scheme was first announced; the progress made to date with same; the amount of funding expended on the scheme to date; the number of properties provided to date with high-speed broadband under the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14145/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

This question is relatively self-explanatory. Deputy Ó Cuív is seeking a response on when the national broadband, NBP, scheme was first announced, the progress made to date with same, the amount of funding expended on the scheme to date, the number of properties provided to date with high-speed broadband under the scheme, and if the Minister will make a statement on the matter.

The NBP aims to ensure high-speed broadband access to all premises in Ireland. This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment and a State-led intervention. The NBP procurement process was launched in 2015, following a public consultation. The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. In 2012, fewer than 700,000, or 30% of Irish premises, had access to high-speed broadband. Today, more than 1.75 million premises, or 74% of premises can access high-speed broadband.

The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage, as we have discussed. As previously advised, the level of State subsidy for the NBP State intervention is to be determined through this procurement process, and it is my intention to bring a recommendation to Government relating to the NBP in the coming weeks. Expenditure relating to the NBP, including the procurement process and the cost of external advisers, from January 2013 to date is €25.4 million.

I thank the Minister. What Deputy Ó Cuív would like to be clear on is the timeframe for the announcement. I know we have addressed some of this in previous questions but it is imperative that we reach a decision without delay. Some premises have received broadband from private operators as a result of the initiation of the NBP. Notwithstanding that, there is still real concern in many parts of rural Ireland as a result of Eir rolling out a service to an additional 80,000 units and the proposals coming for fixed wireless from Imagine that gaps left in the middle will not covered in the longer term.

There is very considerable concern emerging because of an announcement yesterday that the regulator, with respect to the roll-out of 5G wireless technology, will not require coverage of the geographic land mass and there will be more of a concentration on population densities, as there has been in the past. A previous Minister indicated a willingness to look at the geographical basis rather than the basis of population density or dispersal.

As we have discussed, the decision on this is imminent. I intend to bring a recommendation to the Government before Easter, as has been indicated in the timeframe from the Taoiseach. I am working to that deadline. With respect to what is happening in the wider area, the Deputy will appreciate that the intervention area is what is left after commercial operators have "put up their hands" to deliver a universal service in certain areas. That is how Eir came to nominate the 300,000 premises. None of the recent announcements, such as that for Imagine, have put forward a proposal to carve out part of the intervention area on the basis that 100% cover would be provided within an area carved out to the minimum 30 Mbps requirement. These wireless technologies are not fibre to the home and as the Deputy knows all of those which submitted tenders under the original proposals indicated the most cost-effective way of delivering cover was fibre to the home.

Question No. 63 replied to with Written Answers.