To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when fibre broadband will be available in Newtown, County Kildare, an area which has been identified by the strategy announced earlier this year for the delivery of quality high speed broadband to rural areas; if he will provide an update on the mapping process being undertaken by his Department to improve the broadband fibre network in rural communities; when this and the detailed implementation strategy for public consultation will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Anthony Lawlor.
* For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 8th October, 2014.
Ref No: 38494/14 Proof: 258
I propose to take Questions Nos. 231 and 232 together.
The Government’s Statement of Priorities for the period 2014 to 2016 reaffirms our commitment to delivering a State-led broadband intervention in rural areas. Through the National Broadband Plan (NBP) the Government aims to ensure that high speed broadband is available to all citizens and businesses in Ireland. This is being achieved through measures designed to accelerate commercial investment and the development of a State-led intervention for non-commercial areas.
Under EU State Aid Guidelines Member States cannot intervene where commercial investors have plans to roll out services. A comprehensive mapping exercise is underway in my Department to identify those areas that require a State intervention. An initial list of areas has already identified and includes 18 areas in County Kildare, including Newtown. I am also aware of extensive rollout of high speed broadband services in County Kildare by at least one commercial operator.
As part of the mapping process, an initial stakeholder consultation on certain technical aspects of the proposed Plan was launched in June with a deadline of 15th September last. 31 submissions were received as part of this process and non-commercially sensitive versions of these responses will be published by my Department over the coming weeks.
I expect to publish the maps for public consultation later this year. These will include details of the areas requiring State intervention. The maps will be dynamic and will be subject to change if new commercial investments are announced in the future.
A further public consultation on a detailed intervention strategy will be launched in mid-2015.
EU State Aid clearance will be required for the State intervention. My Department will be working closely with the European Commission on this important aspect of the programme.
Finally, a detailed procurement process will have to be undertaken in order to select a potential preferred bidder(s) prior to commencing the roll out of high speed broadband services.
This complex and ambitious project is a key priority for Government and for my Department. It aims to conclusively address current connectivity challenges in a sustainable and meaningful way. Our goal is to ensure that quality broadband services are available to all citizens regardless of where they are located.
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Alex White)