Thursday, 30 November 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
98. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the nature of discussions he has had with existing or potential services providers in regard to the provision of nationwide broadband and other state-of-the-art telecommunication facilities; if he has received or studied offers available to complete the project in accordance with best international practice; the issues which remain an obstacle to achieving the target; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41037/06]
99. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent of the discussions he has had with the various service providers with a view to achieving 100% nationwide coverage in respect of broadband; if discussion has taken place with a view to identification of the issues which have to date impeded the provision of broadband; if all service providers are compliant with EU legislation as transposed into Irish law in regard to loop unbundling or other similar or associated requirements having particular regard to the pressing nature of the requirements of industry and the domestic sector and having particular reference to his reply to parliamentary questions previous to 19 October 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41038/06]
I meet with industry and interested parties on a regular basis in pursuit of my objective to facilitate the widespread availability of competitively priced broadband in Ireland. The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. The regulation and implementation of Local Loop unbundling is the responsibility of the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, under the Communications Regulation Act of 2002, and the transposed EU regulatory framework for Electronic Communications Networks and Services. The role of Government is to put in place effective policies to facilitate the provision of affordable, high quality telecommunications services, by competing private sector service providers.
However, it has been clear for some time that the private sector has failed to invest at the level necessary to keep pace with the demand for broadband. Direct funding has already been provided under the NDP 2000-2006 for the provision of backbone infrastructure and to upgrade local access infrastructure. My Department’s regional broadband programme is addressing the infrastructure deficit by building high-speed open access broadband networks, in association with the local and regional authorities, in the major towns and cities. These Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) allow the private sector to offer world-class broadband services at competitive costs. The networks also offer towns opportunities to attract inward investment in advanced technology and knowledge based enterprises.
The Department also offered funding assistance for smaller towns and rural communities through the Group Broadband Scheme. The scheme is technology-neutral, allowing the community to select the most suitable broadband delivery platform for the area.
Despite private and public investment in broadband infrastructure there are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband connectivity. Options to address these gaps in broadband coverage are currently being considered by a Steering Group comprising officials from my Department and representatives from ComReg. In order to assist with this, the Steering Group is currently seeking the views of Service Providers across all technology platforms. I expect to finalise proposals shortly.
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