Waste Disposal Charges

Question No. 347 answered with Question No. 345.

Ceisteanna (346)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

346. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of deliberations on a waiver for those with disabilities who require it for waste disposal; and if he will allow backdating for all those that qualify for the waiver in view of the length of time GDPR discussions are taking with waste providers. [22368/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

My Department has engaged with relevant stakeholders, including representative organisations and public bodies, in an effort to see how best to provide a financial support to persons with long-term incontinence with respect to the disposal of medical incontinence wear. It should be noted however that none of the options around verification are straightforward, and we must be cognisant of data minimisation where sensitive personal medical information is involved. It is disappointing that it has not yet been possible to implement a support measure. It is important for all those involved, including the representative organisations, that the support goes to the correct people and that the scheme is not dependent on applications that cannot be verified.

A number of models of delivery have been explored, but challenges arose in all options. Significant personal data concerns, under the new GDPR arrangements, were raised in one case but it is important to note that the GDPR issues are not being discussed with waste providers, the providers have tried to assist in the delivery of the scheme but all of us came across GDPR issues. Administration costs and procurement issues were also identified that would have been problematic in terms of getting the balance right between the prevention of fraudulent claims and the delivery of the scheme in a cost effective manner. Unfortunately, the absence of a database of persons who are in receipt of incontinence products from the HSE, which could be used to verify persons who are medically incontinent, has impacted on the delivery of a cost effective scheme.

Notwithstanding the complex issues at play, which are understandable given the sensitive nature of the medical data in question, I would like assure the Deputy that I continue to be committed to try to address this issue. My Department is calling the stakeholders together on 13 June to discuss the matter further and examine a number of possible solutions to deliver this scheme.

Question No. 347 answered with Question No. 345.

National Broadband Plan Data

Ceisteanna (348)

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Ceist:

348. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of broadband connection points planned for south-west County Cork under the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22369/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

In the first year of the National Broadband Plan roll-out, approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) will be deployed across all counties. It is anticipated that between 7 and 23 BCPs will be deployed in each county, including Cork. BCPs will provide a community based high speed broadband service, enhancing online participation and allowing for the establishment of digital work hubs in these locations. Locations for the BCPs have been identified by local broadband officers and are spread across each county. These include schools, businesses, community centres and sports clubs. BCPs will, at a minimum, provide free public Wifi access. Some locations will also have additional facilities such as hot-desking.

A list of BCPs will be published later this year.

National Broadband Plan Data

Ceisteanna (349)

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Ceist:

349. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of premises in south-west County Cork expected to be connected to high speed broadband in Q2, Q3 and Q4 of 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22370/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The National Broadband Plan intervention is the subject of the procurement process to engage a company to build, operate and maintain the NBP State intervention network. Following rigorous evaluation by my Department, I recently brought a recommendation to Government to confer Preferred Bidder status on Granahan McCourt, the remaining bidder in the NBP procurement process and Government agreed to this at its meeting on 7 May. The Government decision means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to National Broadband Ireland, subject to the contract close, including the finalisation of financial and legal documents. Deployment of the NBP State Intervention network will commence shortly after that.

The number of premises in the constituency of Cork South-West with access to high speed broadband is now 21,922, which equates to 41% of all 52,673 premises in the constituency. Another 4,556 or 9% in Cork South-West will be served by eir under that company’s ongoing rural deployment of a high speed broadband network. The Q1 2019 figures will be available shortly. It is anticipated that eir's 300K roll out will conclude in mid 2019.

The deployment of the network within the National Broadband Plan intervention area, including Cork South-West, will commence at contract award and take up to seven years to complete. Of the premises in Cork South-West, approximately 26,195 (50%) will receive access to high speed broadband through the State intervention. In total, it is estimated that the State will invest €90 million in Co Cork under the NBP.

A deployment plan will be made available by the Bidder once the contract is signed. The Bidder is aiming to pass 133,000 premises by the end of the second year, with 70-100,000 passed each year thereafter until roll out is completed.

Bituminous Fuel Ban

Ceisteanna (350)

James Browne

Ceist:

350. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will implement a ban on the sale of smoky coals in locations (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22371/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous coal, or ‘the smoky coal ban’ as it is commonly known, has proven very successful since first introduced in Dublin in 1990 and subsequently extended so that it now applies in 26 urban areas nationwide. I am, therefore, disappointed that a number of coal firms have indicated they would legally challenge the decision of two former Ministers to extend the ban nationwide. Banning the use of smoky coal would have a positive impact on air quality and public health, particularly in built up areas. I am continuing to work with the Attorney General to finalise a legally robust plan which will improve air quality by reducing particulate matter in the air.

Pending the completion of this work, I can confirm that the current ban on bituminous coal will not be extended nationwide for the 2019/20 heating season. I also do not propose to extend the smoky coal ban to other individual towns in the meantime.

High levels of particulate matter arise from a number of sources, including the burning of smoky coal. In light of this, and of the fact that air pollution is now know to cause greater health effects at lower concentrations than was previously understood, I am committed to publishing the National Clean Air Strategy this year. This will provide the policy framework necessary to identify and promote integrated measures across Government to reduce air pollution and promote cleaner air, while delivering on wider national objectives.

Mobile Telephony Services

Ceisteanna (351)

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Ceist:

351. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the measures taken under the mobile phone and broadband taskforce in south-west County Cork; the steps taken to date to address the lack of mobile phone coverage; his future plans to address same in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22359/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Providing telecommunications services, including mobile phone services, is a matter for the relevant service providers operating in a fully liberalised market regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), as independent Regulator. I do not have statutory authority to require commercial companies to roll-out services and make specific investments in particular locations. The ComReg consumer helpline is accessible at consumerline@comreg.ie and I would urge consumers who feel they have not received an appropriate response from service providers to make contact with the Regulator.

The Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce worked with key stakeholders to produce a report in December 2016, available on my Department’s website, which contained 40 actions to alleviate some of the coverage deficits across the country. An Implementation Group is overseeing the implementation of the actions and comprises all key stakeholders responsible for delivery. The Implementation Group meets on a quarterly basis and publishes quarterly progress reports on the implementation status of actions.

Now in its third year of operation, the Taskforce has addressed over 60 actions and continues to focus on issues that are negatively impacting upon the roll-out of essential telecommunications infrastructure in rural areas. The outcome of discussions at the second Annual National Stakeholder Forum held in October 2018 informed preparation of the 2018 Annual Review Report, which was published on 21 February 2019 together with the 2019 Work Programme. Over 30 new actions are contained in the 2019 Work Programme for delivery this year.

Various measures are underway which will address mobile coverage deficits, particularly in rural areas such as south west County Cork:

My Department and the Department of Rural and Community Development have worked to achieve a greater consensus around site selection for telecoms infrastructure and therefore improve mobile phone coverage.

A focus group was established to provide guidance with respect to categories of location where high quality reliable mobile coverage should be made available as a priority. The report of the focus group was published on my Department’s website on 31 August 2018. It is anticipated that the output of the focus group should influence the actions of the mobile network operators in their work to reduce mobile phone blackspots. It will also inform future policy in my Department with regards to priorities for mobile phone services.

A working group has been established with the remit of investigating the feasibility of developing standardised policy for accessing and utilising State and publicly owned assets for the deployment of telecommunications infrastructure.

ComReg has published a composite national outdoor coverage map, which will, in tandem with its work on handset testing and activities to raise consumer awareness, allow people across Ireland to optimise the services available to them.

ComReg has developed a licensing scheme which will enable households and businesses to use mobile phone repeaters to boost signals into their premises and bring immediate improvements in mobile coverage.

In tandem with the work of the Taskforce, the release by ComReg of the 3.6GHz radio spectrum band, which has been identified at EU level as a primary band suitable for 5G roll-out, will also contribute to addressing increasing mobile data demands and improve mobile coverage. Mobile operators’ commercial investment has also resulted in improved services, following ComReg's 2012 multi-band spectrum auction. At least one operator now has in excess of 90% 4G population coverage.

All of these initiatives should help enhance the quality of mobile phone and data services, particularly in areas currently experiencing a low level of service, including County Cork.

Illegal Dumping

Ceisteanna (352, 354)

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Ceist:

352. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of on-the-spot fines issued for illegal dumping; the number of persons charged; the number of persons successfully prosecuted in south-west areas of County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22372/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Ceist:

354. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to increase fines for illegal dumping and resource local authorities to ensure enforcement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22374/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 352 and 354 together.

Enforcement actions against illegal waste activity are a matter for the Local Authorities and the Office of Environmental Enforcement (OEE) within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and my Department does not compile statistics in relation to prosecutions taken or fines imposed. However Recommended Criteria for Environmental Inspection (RMCEI) data compiled by the EPA for 2017 include the following waste statistics for local authorities:

- 60,806 Waste complaints received;

- 59,228 Waste complaints resolved;

- 17,814 Waste inspections undertaken;

- 59,808 Litter patrols/investigations;

- 13,387 Waste enforcement actions initiated;

- 12,013 Enforcement actions closed;

- 638 Waste prosecutions taken;

- 484 Waste prosecutions closed.

Penalties under the Waste Management Act are already substantial. Persons who are found to be responsible for, or involved in, the unauthorised disposal of waste are liable to a maximum fine of €5,000 on summary conviction and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months, and to a maximum fine of €15 million on conviction on indictment and/or imprisonment for up to 10 years.

There have been instances of individuals jailed for offences committed under the Waste Management Act and the EPA in 2015 secured a record €20 million fine against a company for causing pollution at a former landfill in Co. Kildare.

My Department has previously issued a policy direction to local authorities instructing them to pursue illegal holders of waste in accordance with the maximum potential sanctions available under the law in order to maximise the deterrent factor and aim to eliminate the economic benefit deriving from such illegal activity.

My Department has introduced a number of measures to strengthen efforts to improve waste enforcement generally and target illegal dumping. These include:

- An annual waste enforcement grant of €7.4 million to support the recruitment and retention of 150 local authority waste enforcement personnel across the country- Cork County Council receive an allocation of €455,000 in this regard;

- The establishment of the Waste Enforcement Regional Lead Authorities;

- The establishment of a National Waste Enforcement Steering Committee which facilitates more co-ordinated multi agency operations taking place on a regional basis.

In addition, my Department has developed the Anti-Dumping Initiative to work in partnership with local authorities and community organisations in identifying high risk or problem areas, developing appropriate enforcement responses and carrying out clean-up operations.

I recently announced funding of €3 million for the 2019 Anti-Dumping Initiative, an increase of 50% on last year, to support communities around the country to continue to tackle illegal dumping. Innovation, surveillance using drones, special collections for awkward items like mattresses, spreading awareness among young people and recognising the work of volunteers will play a role in this year’s campaign.

There will be a special emphasis on targeting dumping blackspots and illegal operators. Since 2017, the Anti-Dumping Initiative has supported the removal of some 5,000 tonnes of illegal waste from some of the country’s most notorious fly tipping black-spots and approximately 50% of this year’s funding will go towards continuing to tackle this problem.

Illegal Dumping

Question No. 354 answered with Question No. 352.

Question No. 355 answered with Question No. 353.

Ceisteanna (353, 355)

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Ceist:

353. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to increase fines for littering and resource local authorities to ensure enforcement of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22373/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Ceist:

355. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of on-the-spot fines issued for littering; the number of persons charged; the number of persons successfully prosecuted in south-west County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22386/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 353 and 355 together.

My Department provides a robust litter policy and legislative framework. Under the Litter Pollution Act(s) 1997 to 2009, responsibility for management and enforcement falls under the remit of Local Authorities. It is a matter for each Local Authority to decide on the most appropriate public awareness, enforcement and clean up actions to take in relation to litter and illegal dumping, taking account of its own local circumstances, competing priorities, and resources available.

Under the Act(s), €150 fixed penalty notices also known as "on-the-spot-fines may be issued by Local Authority authorised officers (and the Gardaí) for littering offences. Where a Local Authority prosecutes an offence in court, the maximum court fine for littering, on summary conviction, is currently €4,000. The level of fines for littering offences is kept under review by my Department.

The specific data requested for south-west County Cork is not collated by my Department. However, data in respect of each Local Authority area on the amount of money collected from on-the-spot litter fines is available on my Department’s website at the following link:

https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/environment/topics/waste/litter/Pages/Local-Authority-Litter-Fines-and-Expenditure-Statistics.aspx

To support Local Authorities in their role, my Department funds the Local Authority Anti-Litter Awareness Grants on an annual basis. My Department also commissions, an annual National Litter Pollution Monitoring System (NLPMS) Report based on individual Local Authority litter surveys. The most recently published results are available at: http://www.litter.ie/system_survey_results/index.shtml

The 2018 NLPMS Report will be published shortly.

I welcome the fact that consecutive NLPMS Reports have, overall, recorded a broad improvement in the litter situation across the country in recent years. However, I recognise the challenges still presented by littering and I believe that a multi-facetted approach is required to address these. The approach taken should incorporate effective enforcement, public awareness and education. I consider that raising of awareness of the litter problem and educating the young people of this country is key to effecting a long term change in Irish society’s attitudes towards litter disposal. In this context, my Department supports a number of other national anti-litter initiatives viz the National Spring Clean, the Green Schools Programme, the Protecting Uplands and Rural Environments (PURE) Project, and the Irish Business Against Litter League. The Department also maintains negotiated agreements with the banking and chewing gum industries.

Question No. 354 answered with Question No. 352.
Question No. 355 answered with Question No. 353.

National Broadband Plan Data

Questions Nos. 357 to 362, inclusive, answered with Question No. 345.

Ceisteanna (356)

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Ceist:

356. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of premises in south-west County Cork connected to high speed broadband in each quarter from March 2018 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22387/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The National Broadband Plan aims to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland has access to high speed broadband. This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment across the country, and a State intervention in those areas where commercial operators acting alone are unlikely to invest.

There are 52,673 premises in the constituency of Cork South-West.

Since Q1 2018, the number of premises with access to high-speed broadband in the constituency has increased by 2,696, a 4% increase. In total, the number of premises in Cork South-West with access to high speed broadband is now 21,922, which equates to 41% of all premises in the county. Another 9% will be served by eir under that company’s ongoing rural deployment of a high speed broadband network.

The remaining 26,195 homes, schools and businesses in the constituency of Cork South-West will receive access to high speed broadband under the National Broadband Plan State intervention.

In April 2017 my Department published an updated High Speed Broadband Map, which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie. This map shows the areas targeted by commercial operators to provide high speed broadband services and the areas that will be included in the State Intervention Area under the National Broadband Plan. The Map is colour coded and searchable by address or Eircode.

· The AMBER areas represent the target areas for the proposed State led Intervention under the NBP.

· The BLUE areas are where commercial providers are either currently delivering or have plans to deliver high speed broadband services.

· The LIGHT BLUE areas are where eir is in the process of deploying high speed broadband to 300,000 premises on a commercial basis.

Details of access to high speed broadband in Cork South-West in each quarter from Q1 2018 to Q4 2018 are set out in the following table.

Amber

Blue

Light Blue

Total

Q1 2018

26,108 (50%)

19,226

(37%)

7,060

(13%)

52,394

Q2 2018

26,136

(50%)

19,502

(37%)

6,811

(13%)

52,449

Q3 2018

26,159

(50%)

21,728

(41%)

4,736

(9%)

52,623

Q4 2018

26,195

(50%)

21,922

(41%)

4,556

(9%)

52,673

In accordance with the April 2017 Commitment Agreement signed between eir and my Department, my officials engage regularly with eir in relation to its ongoing rural fibre deployment.

According to the latest figures for Q4 2018 provided by eir to my Department the company has passed over 225,000 premises as part of this deployment.

The rate of take up along eir's 300k deployment has increased throughout 2018 and is expected to increase further as eir proceeds to pass and connect further premises every month and as awareness of the availability of high speed broadband improves and retailers offer a choice and variety of communications packages over the network.

It is anticipated that eir's 300k roll out will conclude in mid 2019.

Questions Nos. 357 to 362, inclusive, answered with Question No. 345.

National Broadband Plan Administration

Ceisteanna (363)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

363. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to extend high-speed fibre broadband to a household (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22469/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The National Broadband Plan aims to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland has access to high speed broadband. This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment across the country, and a State intervention in those areas where commercial operators acting alone are unlikely to invest. The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. In 2012, less than 700,000, or 30% of Irish premises had access to high speed broadband. Today, 74% of the 2.4 million premises in Ireland can access high speed broadband.

The premises referenced by the Deputy is in the AMBER area on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map, which is available on my Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie. The AMBER areas represent the target areas for the proposed State led Intervention under the NBP.

This intervention is the subject of the procurement process to engage a company to build, operate and maintain the NBP State intervention network. Following rigorous evaluation by my Department, I recently brought a recommendation to Government to confer Preferred Bidder status on Granahan McCourt, the remaining bidder in the NBP procurement process and Government agreed to this at its meeting on 7 May.

The Government Decision means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to the Bidder. This award is subject to contract close including finalisation of financial and legal documents. Deployment of the NBP State Intervention network will commence shortly after that. The Bidder has indicated that the NBP State intervention will take an estimated 7 years from the beginning of deployment.

In the first year of this roll out, the Bidder will deploy approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) across all counties. It is anticipated that between 7 and 23 BCPs will be deployed in each county. BCPs will provide a community based high speed broadband service, enhancing online participation and allowing for the establishment of digital work hubs in these locations.

A deployment plan will be made available by the bidder once the contract is signed. The Bidder is aiming to pass 133,000 premises by end of the second year of the overall deployment, with 70-100,000 passed each year thereafter until roll out is completed.