To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide an update regarding the roll out of broadband to rural areas in County Kildare; when it is proposed to have full broadband coverage in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Anthony Lawlor.
* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 12th December, 2013.
Ireland’s telecommunications market has been fully liberalised since 1999 in accordance with the requirements of binding EU Directives. The market has since developed into a well-regulated market, supporting a multiplicity of commercial operators, providing services over a diverse range of technology platforms. Details of broadband services available in each County, including County Kildare, can be found on ComReg’s website at www.callcosts.ie.
The State can only intervene to ensure access to broadband services in areas where the competitive market fails to deliver such services, as in the case of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS). Broadband services under the NBS are available since October 2010 from the NBS service provider, “3”, to persons with a fixed residence or fixed business in the designated NBS Electoral Divisions. NBS services are available within 11 of the 90 Electoral Divisions in County Kildare.
The Government’s National Broadband Plan, which I published in August 2012, aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed broadband is available to all citizens and businesses, including those in County Kildare. This will be achieved by providing:
a policy and regulatory framework that assists in accelerating and incentivising commercial investment, and
a State-led investment for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest.
Since the publication of the Plan, investments by the commercial sector are underway and in some instances have been accelerated in both fixed line and wireless high speed broadband services. These developments have been facilitated through the implementation of measures in the National Broadband Plan, including the conclusion of ComReg’s multiband spectrum auction, and the new regulatory regime for fixed line Next Generation Access and service bundles. Both of these measures are designed to incentivise the rollout of services by operators.
In tandem with these developments, intensive work is underway in my Department to progress a State-led investment to secure the countrywide introduction of next generation broadband access. In order to progress the State-led investment for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest, a full procurement process must be designed and EU State Aids approval must be obtained. My Department is engaged in a comprehensive mapping exercise of the current and anticipated investment by the commercial sector over the coming years, the results of which will inform the areas that need to be targeted in the State-led investment as envisaged in the National Broadband Plan.
Intensive technical, financial and legal preparations, including stakeholder engagement, are ongoing. The procurement process for the approved intervention will be carried out in accordance with EU and Irish procurement rules and it is expected that it will be launched in 2014.
Through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, I am committed to ensuring that all parts of Ireland have access to high speed broadband, with a view to ensuring that all citizens and businesses can participate fully in, and maximise the benefits of, a digitally enabled economy and society.