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 Header Item Broadband Service Charges (Continued)
 Header Item Broadband Service Speeds

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 835 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan] The issues involved are coverage and the cost of broadband.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The Deputy has raised these issues on a number of occasions. I accept that there are gaps in the system, but, as I have said before, in terms of the significant State investment in the national broadband scheme, for example, if that had not been done, there would not even be a basic service in many parts of the country. There are technical reasons which I entirely accept and issues that arise such as contention where the speeds promised have not been delivered, which is true, but, by and large, the protocols in place for the national broadband scheme with 3 have worked quite well. The Deputy raises a bigger issue which, in the main, although not exclusively, has to do with the dispersed thinly populated areas of the country which are the focus of the Department because of the mapping exercise under way. It simply has to be acknowledged that the commercial sector will never move into such areas and provide a service; therefore, the State has to do it and obtain state-aid approval, an issue we have dealt with on other occasions. I have no doubt that we will come back to the EU report to which the Deputy referred. To be honest, I have not had an opportunity to look at it or the methodologies involved, but we are a very long way from having an integrated market, which is the desire of the Commissioner. There are huge issues confronting us at that level.

Broadband Service Speeds

Deputy Terence Flanagan: Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan My issue follows on the one raised by Deputy Michael Moynihan. I thank the Minister for his presence and I am delighted to have the opportunity to raise this issue.

I am concerned that some of my constituents in Dublin Bay North and people on the northside of Dublin are not able to access fast and consistent broadband services. Residents in Bettyglen, Maywood and on the Howth Road in Raheny, Dublin 5 have contacted me about the poor quality broadband available to them, with many only having access to speeds of less than 3 Mbps. This is as a result of a delay in the roll-out of fibre-optic broadband in the area by Eircom. As we know, Raheny is less than 5 km from the city centre, yet the broadband speeds available are extremely poor, prevent people from doing business from home and affect students in their education and access to the Internet. A constituent who is running a small business from his home has developed an online presence. He has told me he frequently works in and travels to Africa and that there are faster broadband speeds in Malawi than in his home in Raheny. The delay has been caused by the refusal of Dublin City Council to grant a licence to Eircom to construct an additional cabinet at the junction of Maywood Road and Maywood Grove in order to provide for a fibre-optic upgrade for Internet users in Bettyglen. I ask the Minister to intervene to ensure all councils work with providers - Eircom in this case - to resolve these matters. Constituents are not getting answers from Internet providers, including Eircom, UPC or Sky, on whether improved speeds will be available in the area soon. As Deputy Michael Moynihan said, people are continuing to pay very high monthly subscriptions - in this case, to Eircom - for a poor service, while neighbours living a few roads away have a much better and speedier service.

Eircom informed me recently that while the area was set to receive eFibre services, it did not have a date for the provision of services. It states this is because of the uncertainty surrounding the placement of cabinets and the provision of electricity. Obviously, a compromise has to be reached on the provision of infrastructure to ensure customers receive a better service. Constituents in Howth, particularly on Windgate Road, where speeds of no more than 100 kbps are available, are concerned that they are not able to access the same service as neighbours on adjoining roads. These are professionals who are looking to do business and students who are trying to access various websites for educational purposes. I am sure the Minister will acknowledge that there are pockets in Dublin where there is a lack of services, which is very unfair. I very much welcome his response to the previous Topical Issue about the national broadband plan and the aim to ensure highspeed broadband is available to all citizens and businesses, but there are issues and pockets where there are problems and I am glad to have the opportunity to highlight them directly with him. I know the State will only intervene to ensure access to broadband services in areas where the competitive market fails to deliver such services, but in this case a council is refusing to give planning permission for the provision of cabinets. I do not know if there is a section in the Minister's Department which would be able to deal with these very real issues in different parts of Dublin.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I welcome the Deputy ventilating this issue. I did not know from the Topical Issue raised, which refers to the northside of Dublin, that he was referring specifically to Bettyglen and a couple of black spots in Howth, where Gay Byrne goes for a walk. If the Deputy tables particular parliamentary questions to me, I will see what I can do.

The northside of Dublin is, in many ways, a state of mind and, generally, is immensely well provided for in terms of the provision of broadband, but the Deputy is right that there are gaps. The Eircom programme for the roll-out of eFibre, to which the Deputy referred, is especially exciting. As he knows, fibre-optic is the Rolls Royce of the system. Eircom is getting on with the task and committed to passing 1.4 million homes. I cannot tell the Deputy off the top of my head what the delay in roll-out is in the case of Bettyglen, but I can have a look at the matter and he can also pursue it by way of parliamentary questions.

The Deputy has acknowledged that the State is not a service provider in this market and can only intervene in cases where there is a demonstrable market failure. A great deal of progress has been made and the national broadband plan is a clear expression of the importance of ubiquitous quality broadband to the achievement of our economic and social objectives. The Deputy has referred to the fact that some business people are hampered in the particular areas about which he is concerned. Our commitment is to deliver high speed or next generation broadband services across the country by ensuring the environment is right to maximise investment by the private sector and by State-led investment in those areas where it is evident that the market will not deliver.

Since publication of the plan, fixed line and wireless telecommunications providers have accelerated the roll-out of highspeed services. The landscape for quality broadband provision, in particular in urban areas, including Dublin, has changed dramatically as a consequence. There have been a number of significant developments, for example, the programme to which the Deputy referred, Eircom's eFibre programme. New technology is allowing Eircom to deliver speeds of up to 100 Mbps. Some 700,000 premises can now avail of its next generation broadband services.

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