I propose to take Questions Nos. 188 and 190 to 196, inclusive, together.
The National Broadband Plan (NBP) has been debated extensively in the Dáil, as recently as 23 October 2019. As a State intervention, the NBP must comply with the requirements scheduling of the European Commission’s Guidelines on the application of State aid rules for broadband networks. The Guidelines require, amongst other things, that Member States carry out a detailed mapping exercise to identify as far as reasonably possible those areas where intervention Dáil business is required.
Since July 2013, the Department has engaged in an extensive process of mapping broadband availability in Ireland in order to identify premises requiring State intervention. The mapping exercise has been supported by a number of public consultations which have elicited significant response from industry and the public. The most significant changes to the NBP Map took place in 2017. The Department added a further 84,500 premises to the Intervention Area where commercial investment plans previously provided to the Department had failed to materialise. The update also removed 300,000 premises from the intervention area on the basis of what was then a planned infrastructure build, that eir entered into a Commitment Agreement in respect of.
Having consulted with industry on an ongoing basis, my Department recently conducted a final public consultation to close the mapping exercise in advance of the award of the NBP contract. Over 180 submissions were received from a variety of stakeholders, including 30 from large and small commercial telecommunications operators, with the remainder from local authority broadband officers and members of the public.
Following evaluation of the submissions and receipt of a positive State aid decision on 15 November, responses have been issued to the submissions from the commercial operators. Having evaluated the submissions received, approximately 38,000 premises were removed from the intervention area as commercial operators provided evidence that these premises can now access a high speed broadband service from an existing network. These premises relate to network deployment detailed in submissions received from eir and SIRO, that were evaluated as meeting the assessment criteria published by the Department.
In addition, approximately 37,000 premises originally identified as being served by commercial operators have now been included in the intervention area matter for the NBP, as commercial operators plans to serve these premises have not materialised. The map has also been updated for approximately an additional 2,000 premises identified in the latest Ordinance Survey Ireland data. The final Intervention Area now covers 537,596 premises.
The NBP contract, which was signed on 18 November, provides that the future proofed high speed broadband network to be deployed by National Broadband Ireland will also pass and connect new premises built in the intervention area over the next 25 years. While a download speed threshold of 30Mbps applied in the mapping process as a requirement, the tender submitted by National Broadband Ireland committed to a network that will initially provide services of 150Mbps to the majority of homes and up to 1Gbps to heavy data users and Small and Medium size Enterprises. There will be an upgrade pathway for the 150Mbps broadband product for consumers to 300Mbps by year 6 of the rollout and to 500Mbps by year 10. The 1Gbps product for businesses will also upgrade to 2Gbps by year 11.
These commitments are reflected in the NBP contract and will ensure that people living and working in rural areas, will have access to a similar quality of broadband service to people living and working in urban areas. The maximum possible investment by the State under the National Broadband Plan is capped at €2.977 billion over 25 years. This includes €480m for contingency costs and €354m in VAT.