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 Header Item Electric Vehicles (Continued)
 Header Item National Broadband Plan

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 997 No. 6

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan] The benefits to local community in this regard will be significant. That is why I have drawn attention to the fact that local authorities would be representing their communities by availing of that 75% grant, and even to test in County Wicklow, as the Deputy said, and to start putting in the first of the local networks where they are not otherwise available. We will review it if no local authorities are willing to take up the 75% grant. If they do not put priority on the development of that type of infrastructure and avail of that benefit for their communities, then we will come back to it, and look at it. I believe, however, a 75% grant is appropriate and that is a political decision for each council. As I said, I would encourage councillors to perhaps consider this as a good investment for their communities.

National Broadband Plan

 67. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Climate Action and Communication Networks Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the expected progress that will be made with the roll-out of the national broadband plan in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25015/20]

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív The Minister knows I am a great proponent of the levelling effect rural broadband will have. It is important to rural areas. What progress has been made about the roll-out of the national broadband plan in 2020? Is it really up and running? How many houses will be connected this year, how many will be surveyed, how many will be connected next year, and so forth?

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The national broadband plan, NBP, State-led intervention will be delivered by National Broadband Ireland, NBI, under a contract signed last November. As I outlined in my reply to Deputy Murphy earlier, the national broadband plan network offers a high-speed broadband service with a minimum download speed of 500 Mbps from the outset. This represents an increase from the 150 Mbps committed to under the contract. The deployment plan forecasts premises passed in all counties within the first two years and more than 90% of premises in the State having access to high-speed broadband within the next four years.

As of 15 September, design work is complete or ongoing in target townlands across 21 counties and steady progress is being made with more than 91,000 premises surveyed to date. This activity is increasing week on week and by year end, National Broadband Ireland expects to have completed some 120,000 surveys. This activity involves physically walking the routes and documenting the images, notes and measurements of the poles, cables and underground ducts in each area. This is informing design solutions for provision of the fibre network. This detailed design is then used to initiate the "make ready" project with Eir for the area, where Eir ensures any poles and ducts being reused are fit for purpose. It is also used to initiate works with the subcontractors deploying the actual fibre in the area. The laying of the fibre should commence shortly with the first fibre to the home connections expected around December this year.

The national broadband plan has delivered significant employment opportunities with National Broadband Ireland directly employing some 140 staff and more than 500 people are now working on the plan either directly or indirectly.

Broadband connection points, BCPs, are a key element of the national broadband plan providing high-speed broadband in every county in advance of the roll-out of the fibre to the home network. Some 144 BCP sites have been installed by National Broadband Ireland and the high-speed broadband service will be switched on in these locations through service provider contracts managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development for publicly available sites, such as those owned by the Department of Education and Skills for schools.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív Am I correct in thinking that the way this is being rolled out by National Broadband Ireland is from the centre outwards? It is starting at the periphery of towns and cities and working outwards from the densely populated urban areas. Therefore, the least-populated areas will have to wait until the end. The Minister said that, so he might confirm it.

The Minister said that 10% will not be done within five years. I take it that 10% is in the mountains and hills or the kind of place I live in. Is there any way that could be expedited? Otherwise, we are always going to be the end of the line for everything. It is hugely beneficial to rural areas to have it. Are the islands off the coast of Ireland in the last 10% because we would like to ensure that when a person goes on his or her holidays that he or she will have good broadband?

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan My understanding is that there is not a decision to go from the centre out to the periphery. In fact, the whole nature of the broadband plan is that it will have to jump over most villages and towns where Eir, under its previous arrangement, agreed to provide high-speed broadband to that area. This whole project goes straight into the heartland of rural Ireland and there will not be any one county, or any one area in one county, that should be disadvantaged in that. I understand the first areas where it will be rolled out include areas in County Cavan and in rural Cork, or perhaps rural Carrigaline-----

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív Rural Carrigaline or rural Bushypark, perhaps.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The surveying work being done at the moment is to make sure we get the design right and that will determine the choice. It is not on the basis of which is closest to the centre or which is further out. It is designed to make it the easiest possible delivery. Included in that could be the use of ESB poles instead of Eir poles or looking at different options of delivery. This whole project, however, is designed to support rural Ireland. To my mind, the most rural areas have just as much priority as anywhere else.

To answer the Deputy's question, wherever that 10% may be, the whole purpose, as I said in response to an earlier question, is to try to accelerate the programme so they are delivered within five years and not thereafter.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Minister, my role is to accelerate the time, so we get as many questions as possible in. An Teachta Ó Cuív has one minute.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív Is it possible for the Department, in consultation with National Broadband Ireland, which has got this fantastic State contract, to perhaps get an outline of how it plans on rolling out this particular project and how it intends carrying out the surveying? That will then answer the question as whether it is doing the easy pickings and the more densely populated areas first and that the people out on the hills and the mountains will be left until last. Is it possible for the Minister to get National Broadband Ireland to brief us on these since it is a totally funded scheme?

Has the Minister any information on the growth in connections of fibre to a house where it already passes the house under the Eir scheme. In recent times, has there been a significant pick-up per hundred houses passed of people actually taking fibre to the house?

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan One of the few positives, if there are any-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I beg your pardon, Minister. Deputy Ó Murchú wishes to come in.

Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú: Information on Ruairí Ó Murchú Zoom on Ruairí Ó Murchú It is just a follow-up with regard to the plan. Obviously, I agree with what Deputy Ó Cuív said on about a statement on this roll-out, particularly from a point of view of what surveys need to be done and the timeline. I accept there is an issue in respect to the most difficult 10%. How much fluidity is there in the plan with regard to being able to piggyback on previous technology that has already been put in place and looking at new technological solutions that may arise during this period? We need, however, a straightforward scenario. We need to have a breakdown on the particular areas, the number of surveys and the plan in regard to the surveys and how we get from the surveys to actually delivering a service to people.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan To answer those two questions first, there was a strategic decision in the application of fibre that the vast majority would be delivered in this manner. It is only the very last percentage most distant from an accessible pole where fixed wireless may be used. I believe that is the technology of the future and the technology we will need for the highest possible standards, so I do not see technological developments around that.

Unfortunately, the reason these areas are selected and are in the amber region is because there was not existing infrastructure other than the existence of telegraph poles, wooden poles, Eir poles and-or other ESB poles. It uses that existing infrastructure but does not avail of the other fixed wireless or other wireless technologies that may be in those areas. The strategic decision was made to use fibre.

To answer Deputy Ó Cuív's questions, it is my understanding that there has been an increase in the uptake of broadband in those areas which is being provided with the SIRO network, the Eir network or other suppliers. As a result of Covid-19, there has been an increase in the uptake and in the level of demand in terms of remote working and the level of application.

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