I propose to take Questions Nos. 888 to 890, inclusive, together.
My Department recently conducted a public consultation to close the ongoing mapping exercise, seeking submissions from operators who wish to have their existing high speed broadband networks, or who have developed plans to invest in high speed broadband networks over the next 7 years, to be included on the Department’s High Speed Broadband Map.
The consultation was extended twice, which provided for a nine week consultation period and closed on 30 September. These extensions were at the request of a number of telecommunications operators, including the operator referenced by the Deputy. Over 180 submissions were received from a variety of stakeholders, including 30 from large and small commercial operators, with the remainder from local authority broadband officers and members of the public.
Operators submitting planned investments were required to sign a declaration that they will enter into a Commitment Agreement with the Department if their plans satisfy the financial and technical assessment criteria and are accepted by the Department as being concrete and credible. My Department is in the process of finalising its assessment of these submissions.
The findings of the consultation, which will be available in the coming weeks, will ensure that the State Intervention Area is up to date and that it reflects commercial operators’ plans and the responses from householders and businesses, in advance of a contract being signed later this year. This will be an important element in concluding the State Aid approval process with the European Commission.