The Department of Rural and Community Development has two roles directly relevant to the National Broadband Plan.
The first is to act as co-secretariat to the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce, which I chair. The Taskforce was established in 2016, arising from a commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government, to identify immediate solutions to broadband/mobile phone coverage deficits and to investigate how better services could be provided to consumers prior to full build and roll-out of the network planned under the National Broadband Plan State intervention (NBP).
The Department has played a leading role in the work of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce, both in terms of secretariat and coordinating functions and in terms of delivering specific actions in the Taskforce's work programme. Progress reports on the Taskforce's programme are available at:
The second role my Department plays in relation to the National Broadband Plan relates to the establishment of the nationwide network of Broadband Connection Points (BCPs). The BCP initiative will see high-speed broadband services bought to approximately 300 sites, typically schools, community centres and sports clubs, in remote and rural areas across the country, ahead of the arrival of the National Broadband Plan network.
These sites will provide access to high-speed broadband on-site to local people, facilitating access to online services, with many supporting remote working and study.
The Department has worked with Local Authority Broadband Officers to identify the selected sites and is working closely with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment to establish the BCP network.
The Department will procure a provider, or providers, for the installation of access infrastructure at the connection points and will provide a subvention to Local Authorities towards the costs of retail services for non-commercial sites and sites with no significant revenue raising activities.
The first BCPs are expected to be connected by the end of Q2 2020, with a view to the full number of points being connected within the first year of the NBP roll-out in the State Intervention area.