36. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which he remains satisfied that the provisions in place and proposed remain adequate to meet the target of the provision of broadband in all areas, urban and rural without exception; if there will be a need for extra initiatives to meet shortfalls; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 41879/17 asked on 04 Oct 2017)

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): As I have already indicated to the House, last week my Department received “Detailed Solutions” from two bidders as part of the ongoing procurement process to select a company, or companies, who will roll-out a new high speed broadband network for those areas that will not be served by commercial operators acting alone. This was a significant milestone in the procurement process which is now entering into its final stages.  Early in 2018, it is expected that bidders will be invited to submit their final tenders.  

The facts are that the National Broadband Plan has been a catalyst in driving commercial operators in their deployment of high speed broadband to the extent that today almost 7 out of 10 premises now have access to high speed broadband.  This figure will rise to nearly 8 out 10 premises by 2018 and 9 out of 10 by 2020.  In the last 6 months there has been a 150% increase in the number of pure fibre connections albeit from a low base.

eir has passed 101,000 premises as at the end of September and are on track to honour its commitment to provide 300,000 premises in rural Ireland with high speed broadband by the end of 2018, as agreed with me in April of this year.  Other players in the market have also ramped up the speed of their roll out. For example, SIRO is investing €450m to provide fibre broadband to 500,000 premises across 51 towns on an open access basis, while enet and SSE are investing €100m in pure fibre broadband to 115,000 premises in the West and North West.

For the information of the Deputy, there are over 90,000 premises in County Kildare, 77,000 of which fall within a BLUE area and will be covered by commercial operators.  Of these 77,000, circa 7,000 premises form part of eir’s planned rural deployment.  The remaining 13,000 premises in County Kildare fall within an AMBER area and will be part of the State led Intervention under the National Broadband Plan.

The Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce (the ‘Taskforce’) was established in July 2016 to consult and engage with telecoms industry representatives in order to identify solutions which can be implemented in the short, medium and long term to alleviate telecommunications deficits, particularly in rural Ireland, prior to full build and rollout of the network planned under the State Intervention.  Under this Taskforce, engagement between telecommunications operators and local authorities through the Broadband Officers is continuing to strengthen.  These Broadband Officers are acting as single points of contact  in local authorities for their communities.  The appointment of these officers are already reaping rewards in terms of ensuring  a much greater degree of consistency  in engagements with operators and clearing obstacles to infrastructure.  Contact details for the local Kildare Broadband Officer can be accessed on the link to the list of  broadband officers on my Department’s website.