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Broadband Service Charges

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Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte)

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Snippet Contents:

I am grateful to Deputy Moynihan for giving me the opportunity to address the House on this matter. As the Deputy is aware, Ireland's telecommunications market has been liberalised since 1999. This means that retail price fixing for deregulated services is not permitted. Governments can, however, establish an investment environment that promotes an active competitive market. Hopefully, this will in turn improve the quality of services and place downward pressure on retail prices. Moreover, the commercial broadband market has made progress, with the number of broadband subscribers increasing from 600,000 to more than 1.6 million within five years. Increasingly, consumers are opting for bundled services from a single provider. These now account for more than 50% of all fixed-line subscriptions. Moreover, smart phone adoption is continuing to increase, with an increase of more than 16% recorded last year. In the fixed-line broadband market, customers are moving from lower to higher broadband speeds, where available.
It remains the case that many towns, villages and communities are not seeing similar progress. Ireland's widely dispersed population means there are some areas in which it simply is not viable for the commercial sector to provide services. In August 2012, I launched the national broadband plan to change radically the broadband landscape by ensuring that high-speed broadband is available to all citizens and businesses. This will be achieved by encouraging the commercial markets to do so where the business case is present and by establishing a State-led investment for areas in which it is not commercially viable for the market to invest. Since publication of the plan, investments by the commercial sector are under way in both fixed-line and wireless high-speed broadband services. For example, Eircom has plans to pass 1.4 million addresses with its next-generation broadband service, while UPC has increased its entry-level and maximum speeds to 120 Mbps and 200 Mbps, respectively.
As Deputy Moynihan noted, recent legislation to facilitate the ESB's entry into the telecommunications market also can help the roll-out of high-speed broadband, as well as facilitating greater competition. Intensive work continues in my Department in respect of the State-led investment to secure the countrywide introduction of next-generation broadband access. By implementing the national broadband plan, I am committed to ensuring that all parts of Ireland have access to high-speed broadband, with a view to ensuring that all citizens and businesses can participate fully in a digitally-enabled society. The plan will ensure that a combination of commercial and State-led investment delivers access to high-speed broadband service to all as quickly as possible. Therefore, competing service providers and informed customers moving across providers to secure the best value will exercise the required downward pressure on retail prices.