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 Header Item Alternative Energy Projects (Continued)
 Header Item Other Questions
 Header Item National Broadband Plan Implementation
 Header Item Hydraulic Fracturing Policy

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 901 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michael Colreavy: Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy]  I have tabled a motion to be taken at tomorrow's meeting of the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications. The TTIP-ISDS negotiations are going on at the moment. The Joint Committee on Transport and Communications was not included as one of the committees involved in preparing the political contribution - as it is unfortunately called - report to the EU even though it covers functions that would be intimately and immediately impacted by TTIP-ISDS. Will that be taken into account following publication of the interim report?

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh TTIP will involve the European Union and the United States, so that is a wider question. Sticking to this question and this issue, making that presentation to the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications will be considered. It is also important to point out that representatives of the EPA have appeared before the committee and made a very worthwhile presentation. The steering committee needs to be afforded space now because this question has just been asked publicly. I want to give it the space to produce an interim report on the significant body of work it has completed to date. That will happen. I am asking for that to be done sooner rather than later.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt We now come to Other Questions. I call Deputy Ó Cuív.

Deputy Michael Colreavy: Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy On a point of clarification. Does that mean the land-based studies will not being going ahead from 1 January?

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh All I am saying is that we are asking the steering committee to produce the findings of its significant work. Nothing will happen until that is achieved.

Deputy Michael Colreavy: Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy So nothing further will happen.

Other Questions

National Broadband Plan Implementation

 40. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White when the roll-out of high-speed rural broadband under the national broadband scheme will commence; the minimum speed of the proposed service; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [44660/15]

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív As the Minister knows, broadband is the new highway. Many rural areas still have only 5 Mbps or 10 Mbps broadband. When will we see the physical roll-out of the rural broadband scheme? Will the Minister be absolutely clear on what speeds we can expect because it is inappropriate to talk about 30 Mbps, which is five years out of date?

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White The national broadband plan aims to ensure that every citizen and business, regardless of location, has access to a high-quality, high-speed broadband service. This will be achieved through a combination of commercial investments and a State-led intervention in areas where commercial services will not be provided. The commercial telecommunications sector is currently investing approximately €2.5 billion in network upgrades and enhanced services. These very significant investments represent a step-change in the quality of broadband services available.

Last November, I published a national high-speed coverage map for 2016. This map is available at the broadband website. The areas marked blue represent those areas that will have access to commercial high-speed broadband services. The amber areas show the target areas for the State intervention. All premises within the amber areas will be included in the State's intervention.

The map allows all members of the public, be they business or residential, to see whether their premises or home will have access to commercial high-speed broadband services by the end of 2016 or whether they will be included in the Government's proposed intervention. The high-speed map contains a breakdown of premises covered per townland.

It is anticipated that there will be speeds of at least 30 Mbps. I emphasise that it is at least 30 Mbps because occasionally this is misreported or misunderstood as being up to 30 Mbps. It is not up to 30 Mbps but speeds of a minimum of 30 Mbps will also be delivered through the Government's intervention and the network will be designed to cater for future increased demand from consumers and business. In other words, it will be future-proofed. Consumers can also consult the websites of the various commercial operators to ascertain details of current and future deployment plans.

Meanwhile, my Department continues to review the technical and financial detail relating to potential new commercial investment proposals. As I indicated earlier, I expect to proceed to formal procurement before the end of the year. The Government is determined to ensure that the network is built out as quickly as possible and engagement with industry stakeholders has indicated that this could be achieved within three to five years of the contract award. Some 85% of addresses in Ireland will have access to high-speed services by 2018 with 100% coverage by 2020.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív The Minister has given a very long and comprehensive answer telling us everything we already knew. At the end of it, he began to address the issues. He said that by the end of this year, he will have taken step 1. When can we expect to see the physical roll-out of high-speed broadband under the State's intervention? Will it be in 2016 or 2017? Does the Minister intend to roll out from the most isolated areas inwards - in other words, from those areas where there is no question of commercial intervention? Does the Minister agree that in reality within a year or two years, it will be 1 Gbps and that 30 Mbps is totally obsolete in the modern world? Even 100 Mbps has been overtaken. What most people will demand and get in the future is fibre to their premises.

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White On the last issue the Deputy raised, I again emphasise it will be a minimum of 30 Mbps. The Deputy is correct. Given the exponential improvement in the technology and what is now possible, this sector is expanding and enhancing its services at a very high rate. What we expect of operators, and what we will do in the procurement process, is to understand from them how they will future-proof the network they will build in order to ensure it is not up to 30 Mbps but that 30 Mbps is the minimum and, as the technology improves, they will be able to upgrade the service they give to their consumers without building again, procuring again or anything else of that nature. It will start at 30 Mbps and go up from there. The Deputy is right that there is huge potential technology in regard to what can be achieved. That will be achieved and we will ensure we build future-proofing into the procurement process.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I thank the Minister.

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White I have already given the House information on the timescale. This is not step 1; this is step 3, as I have indicated. Step 1 was the publication of the map a year ago. Step 2 was the strategy in July of this year and step 3 is now the procurement process, which is about to begin. It will take three to five years to build the entire project.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I am sorry. We are over time.

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White We expect to cover 85% by 2018.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív When will the physical build start? In other words, how long will the procurement process take? People want to know when they will be able to plug in their computers and get connected to proper broadband. Does the Minister not agree that if he wants to future-proof, he should specify 1 Gbps to everybody and be done with it? Specifying a minimum of 30 Mbps is obsolete already because what people need and expect is real high-speed broadband. The Minister knows how it is provided. It is a little bit of fibre in reality. Talking about being technology-neutral, real high-speed broadband cannot be provided other than by fibre.

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White I take the Deputy's point about fibre. However, we cannot specify a technology. We have to be technology-neutral.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív The Minister can specify a speed.

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White Under state aid rules, we cannot do that. I agree with the Deputy that fibre is likely to be the technology we need to deliver these services but we cannot specify it. I have already told the House that we will go to procurement by the end of December. We hope to have a bidder or bidders in place by the middle of 2016. I have told them that it will take between three and five years to build the entire network.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív When will they start building?

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White It will take between three to five years to build it.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív When will it start?

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White It will take between three to five years.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt We are over time now.

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White It starts next year. There will certainly be delivery of product in 2018 because I have given figures in respect of that. The last house will be covered some time before 2020.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I thank the Minister.

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White I accept that people are frustrated but when they have high-speed broadband, they will be very satisfied that we have done the right job.

Hydraulic Fracturing Policy

 41. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White his views on the wisdom of continuing with the Environmental Protection Agency study into hydraulic fracturing with terms of reference that are considerably out of date, given that 50% of research into hydraulic fracturing has been carried out since 2012. [44663/15]

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly This follows on from Deputy Colreavy's earlier question regarding the EPA process and fracking. I am not filled with confidence given the Minister of State's implacable defence of the process in the prepared answer he read out and then in the latter reply when he said he would give us an interim report, which completely contradicts the EPA head of research who in March of this year said there would be no interim reports.


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