Thursday, 8 October 2020

Ceisteanna (74)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

74. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications if the roll-out of the national broadband plan will be expedited; if an area in County Kerry (details supplied) will be prioritised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29291/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The Question refers to a premises which is located 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 area represents the area to be served by the network to be deployed under the NBP State led intervention, the contract for which was signed in November last with National Broadband Ireland (NBI). The NBP network will offer users a high speed broadband service with a minimum download speed of 500Mbps from the outset. This represents an increase from the 150Mbps committed to under the Contract. The deployment plan forecasts premises passed in all counties within the first 2 years and over 90% of premises in the State having access to high speed broadband within the next four years. As of 28 September, design work is complete or ongoing in target townlands across 23 counties and steady progress is being made with over 98,000 premises surveyed to date. This activity is increasing week on week and NBI expects to have completed some 120,000 surveys by the end of the year. This activity involves physically walking the routes and documenting images, notes and measurements of the poles, cables and underground ducts in each area. This is informing design solutions for provision of the fibre network. This detailed design is then used to initiate the ‘make ready’ project with eir for the area, where eir ensure any poles and ducts being reused are fit for purpose. It is also used to initiate works with the subcontractors deploying the actual fibre in the area. 

In Kerry 6,500 premises have been surveyed to date in areas around Tralee such as Curraheen, Abbeydorney, Kilflynn, Firies and in areas around Killarney including Muckross, Fossa, Kilcummin, Lissivigeen, Ballycasheen, Faha, Firies and Ballyhar. 

NBI provides a facility for any premises within the AMBER area to register their interest in being provided with deployment updates through its website (https://nbi.ie/map/).

Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are a key element of the NBP providing high speed broadband in every county in advance of the roll out of the fibre to the home network. Some 155 BCP sites have been installed by NBI and the high speed broadband service will be switched on in these locations through 'service provider' contracts managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development for publicly available sites and by the Department of Education and Skills (DES) for schools.

In Kerry, a number of schools in the Intervention area, Coars National School, Boheeshil National School, Gap of Dunloe National School will be connected for educational access as part of this initiative. My Department will work with DES to prioritise the remaining schools to be connected over the term of the NBP. The public will be able to benefit from this service at locations across the county such as Kielduff, Valentia Island, Gneeveguilla (Tureencahill), Inch and Kells Community Centres. Further details can be found at https://nbi.ie/bcp-locations/.

While substantial progress has been made to date, the Covid 19 pandemic has had an impact on the delivery of the fibre network. The extent of this impact is currently being assessed and NBI has committed to put in place measures to mitigate the impact in as far as possible. The Covid 19 pandemic has also highlighted the importance of good reliable broadband to ensure that citizens across Ireland can avail of remote working, education and other essential online facilities. This is reflected in the commitments in the Programme for Government where delivery of the National Broadband Plan will be a key enabler to many of the policies envisaged particularly around increased levels of remote working.

The Programme for Government has committed to seek to accelerate the roll out of the National Broadband Plan. In this regard, my Department continues to engage with NBI to explore the feasibility of accelerating aspects of this rollout to establish the possibility of bringing forward premises which are currently scheduled in years 6 and 7 of the current plan to an earlier date. Exploring the potential to accelerate the network rollout is being undertaken in parallel with the measures required to mitigate delays arising as a result of Covid-19.

In April 2020, all major telecommunications providers committed to a number of measures to help people stay in touch and work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, a number of operators have implemented further supports for consumers, such as for students in  education, who require a high data usage package, by increasing data limits on many existing packages and by the introduction of new packages with very high, or unlimited data offerings. The market for mobile packages with very high, or unlimited data offerings, is becoming increasingly competitive and this is positive for all consumers.