The premises referenced in the Question is located within 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. Premises in the AMBER area will be provided with high speed broadband through the 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. I am advised by NBI that, as of 16 November 2020, over 131,000 premises across every county in Ireland have been surveyed, which is ahead of the full year survey target of 120,000 that had been projected by the company. 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. The first fibre to the home connections are expected next month in Carrigaline, Co Cork and they will be subject to technical testing and validation prior to a wider release of the area. I am advised that from the end of January retailers will be able to resell the service and householders in these areas will be able to order high speed broadband provided via the NBI network. In County Westmeath, I can advise that surveys have been carried out in the areas around Mullingar, Sonna, Stonehall, Taghmon, Jamestown, Hopestown and Athlone. NBI advise that surveys are due to start in areas around Devlin in early 2021 with an indicative date of summer 2021 for scheduled commencement of build works in the Mullingar area.
Further details are available on specific areas within Westmeath through the NBI website which provides a facility for any premises within the Intervention Area to register their interest in being provided with deployment updates through its website www.nbi.ie. Individuals who register with this facility will receive regular updates on progress by NBI on delivering the network and specific updates related to their own premises when works are due to commence. I am aware that concerns have been raised regarding the level of information available on the deployment of the NBI network and I am advised that NBI is working to provide more detail on its website, with a rolling update on network build plans.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. As of November, some 190 BCP sites have been installed by NBI and 59 of these are now connected with high speed publicly accessible broadband through a service provider contract managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development. A further 22 are connected with high speed broadband, for educational access only, through a service provider contract managed by the Department of Education and Skills. Further details can be found at https://nbi.ie/bcp-locations/.In County Westmeath, NBI has installed the necessary infrastructure for BCPs at Streete Parish Park and Community Hall, Whitehall and Milltown Emper Community Centres and Ballycomoyle GAA Club, and connection will be provided by retail service providers in the coming weeks.Scoil Náisiúnta Bhride has been connected to high speed broadband, for educational access only, as part of the BCP initiative, with Scoil Naomh Michael to be connected in the coming weeks. My Department continues to work with the Department of Education and Skills to prioritise the remaining schools to be connected over the term of the NBP. I understand that there can be instances where premises remain unconnected, although close to premises that are passed by eir’s fibre network. eir’s rural deployment of high speed broadband is a commercial undertaking and, as such, decisions regarding the areas and premises served are made by eir. My Department has no role in the matter and has no statutory authority to intervene in decisions of commercial operators as to where they build infrastructure and provide services. Throughout rural Ireland, eir’s fibre deployment is primarily focused on towns and villages and the premises on their outskirts. Where that network ends is where the National Broadband Plan in effect commences to ensure that nobody is left behind. I appreciate it can be frustrating when citizens are living so close to a fibre network but cannot get a connection to that network, particularly given the heightened importance of connectivity during the Covid-19 pandemic. The NBP will ensure that in all such cases a future proofed high speed broadband network will be built to serve these premises and work to deliver on this is well under way.