BREEN sceptical that Communications Minister will deliver on broadband targets

June 26th, 2008 - Pat Breen

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has advised Clare T.D Pat Breen that a service provider will be selected in August to deliver broadband to the areas of the country which are currently unserved and that following the decision on the preferred bidder that the roll-out which commence shortly after.Fine Gael’s Deputy Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Clare T.D. Pat Breen said today that “it is extremely important that the Minister ensures that these targets are met, however I remain sceptical that the Minister will deliver to this time-frame.” “Time- frames and commitments stand for little, for instance the people of Ballynacally and Kildysart were promised that broadband would be rolled-out in the second quarter of 2008, however, this deadline will not be met because I am advised that the link upgrade required providing the capacity at the exchange in Kildysart requires further investment.”

“The programme for Government commits to “moving Ireland to the forefront of the knowledge based economies in the world through the provision of open access broadband”; however, they have been very slow in moving forward to achieve this. The New Generation Broadband Draft Policy is still sitting gathering cobwebs on Minister Ryan’s desk twelve months after his appointment. Last year the then Chief Executive of Shannon Development Kevin Thompstone highlighted the benefits of selecting Shannon as an location for this pilot initiative and I would urge the Minister to ensure that this Region is not left further behind when he finally publishes this initiative.”

“The Government cannot continue to ignore the importance of broadband or Ireland will continue to lag behind when it comes to broadband penetration with rural Ireland the biggest losers.”

 

 

PARLIAMENTARY QUESTION No. 186   Dail Eireann

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress in extending broadband to County Clare; if Shannon will be included in the new network generation pilot scheme; when this scheme will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

 

 

– Pat Breen.

* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 29th May, 2008.

Ref No:

21593/08

 

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter for the private sector. Broadband service providers operate in a fully liberalised market, regulated, where appropriate, by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.

REPLY 

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Mr E Ryan)

 

The role of the Government is to formulate regulatory and infrastructure policies to facilitate the provision of high quality telecommunications services by competing private sector service providers.

The widespread provision of broadband services continues to be a priority for the Government. In that regard my Department has undertaken initiatives to address the gaps in broadband coverage. These include providing grant-aid under the Group Broadband Scheme (GBS) and investment in Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs).

Although broadband is now widely available in Ireland there are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband services. These areas are being addressed by the National Broadband Scheme (NBS), which will provide broadband services to areas that are currently unserved, including any unserved areas in County Clare and will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband are met.

The first phase of the NBS procurement process (Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ)) is now complete, and four candidates pre-qualified to enter the next phase of the procurement process. Following the withdrawal of one of the candidates, the remaining three candidates have now commenced “Competitive Dialogue” with my Department and are developing their proposed solutions to meet my Department’s requirements for the delivery of broadband to the unserved areas of the country. It is anticipated that a preferred bidder will be selected in August 2008, with rollout to commence as soon as possible thereafter.

My Department has recently received notice of Judicial Review proceedings regarding certain elements of the NBS mapping process. These proceedings are currently before the Commercial Court and due for hearing on 10 and 11 June 2008. A speedy conclusion of the matter has been requested in order to advance the NBS as quickly as possible 

A Draft Policy Paper on Next Generation Broadband is being prepared by my Department. The Paper reviews current communications infrastructure policy and analyses policy options in light of industry developments in relation to the optimum role for the Government in the planning and rollout of next generation broadband.

I intend to publish the paper as a consultation paper for public comment on next generation broadband shortly. The paper will set out policy actions to support the delivery of next generation broadband in Ireland

Additionally a Value for Money and Policy Review of Phase I of the Metropolitan Area Networks Programme is currently being finalised in my Department.

Both reports, which I intend to publish in the coming weeks, will help to inform future public investment decisions in the area of broadband.