Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
269. Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the terms used to determine the areas that will receive broadband services under the national broadband scheme; the steps he is taking to provide broadband services to areas that do not have broadband and are not covered by the national broadband scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37831/09]
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Eamon Ryan): The objective of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is to provide access to affordable, scalable broadband services to rural areas, many of which do not currently have any broadband service. The NBS is being rolled out on an electoral division basis and will address electoral divisions (EDs) that are without adequate broadband services.
The NBS, which was approved by the European Commission, seeks to strike a balance between reaching as many un-served premises in Ireland as possible while minimising the impact of the scheme on businesses already providing broadband services in rural areas.
After compiling existing broadband coverage maps in the State, the Department was faced with a decision to determine which EDs should be addressed by the NBS, based on the levels of existing coverage in relevant EDs.
Where an ED was completely un-served by any existing service provider it was included in the NBS. EDs that, at the time of the mapping exercise in 2008, were completely served were excluded from the NBS.
Where an ED was not substantially covered by existing service providers, it was included in the Scheme. It is accepted that some of these areas already had a certain level of service. However, in such cases the entire ED was deemed not substantially covered and consequently was included in the NBS in order to ensure that all residences and businesses in the ED could benefit from broadband services.
It is accepted that even after the full roll-out of the NBS there will still be a small percentage of premises that will not be capable of receiving broadband services. This is primarily due to technical and other reasons (suitability of a telephone line, distance from an enabled exchange, no line of sight etc.). The European Economic Recovery Programme contains a specific provision for broadband services to rural areas and my Department is currently considering options for the design and implementation of such a scheme. It is hoped to commence this scheme in 2010 and have it completed by 2012. Discussions have already commenced with the European Commission on the critical first step of applying for and securing State Aid clearance.
270. Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if all areas in County Leitrim, both urban and rural, will be included in the next roll-out of broadband; and the time frame for the provision of broadband in all areas of County Leitrim. [37862/09]
271. Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if all areas in County Roscommon, both urban and rural, will be included in the next roll-out of broadband; and the time frame for the provision of broadband in all areas of County Roscommon. [37863/09]
The enabling of exchanges for broadband purposes is a matter for the owners of the relevant exchanges. It is anticipated that the facilitation of greater competition via the introduction of broadband from different technology platforms should encourage the more rapid enabling of exchanges.
While the provision of broadband is a matter for the service providers, there are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband services. In this regard, my Department has undertaken a variety of initiatives to address the gaps in broadband coverage including the now concluded Group Broadband Scheme and the current roll out of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS).
Details of the areas of counties Leitrim and Roscommon that will be served by the NBS are available from the service provider, 3, at www.3.ie. Under the terms of the NBS contract, 3 are required to have service fully rolled-out in the NBS area by September 2010.
I am considering how the provision of broadband services to un-served rural premises can be achieved through an appropriate intervention under the European Economic Recovery Package (EERP). My Department is currently considering options for the design of such a scheme. It is hoped to commence this scheme in 2010 and conclude it in 2012. A critical initial step is to apply for and secure, State Aid clearance from the European Commission. Discussions with the European Commission on this have commenced.
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