Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Ceisteanna (218)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Ceist:

218. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he has engaged in discussions or commissioned reports in relation to subsidising household broadband services to tackle educational disadvantage and narrow the digital divide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16679/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

I recognise how vital telecommunications services are to citizens for so many aspects of their daily lives, including remote working, studying and staying in touch with family members particularly during the Covid-19 crisis. While my Department has not commissioned any reports of the nature described in the question, the Government, through the National Broadband Plan in particular, is investing very significantly in addressing the digital divide and in ensuring that schools and individual students have the necessary connectivity to fully participate in the digital society. The NBP will ensure that over 1.1 million of our citizens that currently live in areas without access to a reliable high speed broadband service will have access to this service going forward, at a cost comparable to urban areas.

With respect to schools, my Department continues to work with the Department of Education to prioritise schools with no high speed broadband within the Intervention Area, for connection over the term of the NBP. In this regard, an acceleration of this aspect of the National Broadband Plan was announced in December which will see some 679 primary schools connected to high speed broadband by 2022, well ahead of the original target delivery timeframe of 2026. Further details are available on the NBI website at https://nbi.ie/primary-schools-list/.

Telecommunication service providers have reacted to the Covid crisis by taking a number of measures to help people stay connected during the pandemic. Some of these measures are of particular relevance to students, such as measures taken to increase data limits on many existing packages and introduce new packages with very high, or unlimited data offerings, including unlimited data packages at a low cost.