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Written Answers. - Telecommunications Services.

Tuesday, 26 November 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 1

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 307. Mr. Crowe Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe  asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Information on Dermot Ahern Zoom on Dermot Ahern  the amount of investment to date which has come from Government and the private sector, in view of the importance of broadband technology to jobs potential; and the proposals his Department has to develop this technology here. [23426/02]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. D. Ahern): Information on Dermot Ahern Zoom on Dermot Ahern The provision [254] of communications infrastructure and services is a matter for the private sector companies that operate in the fully liberalised telecommunications market.

However, recognising that there are areas of the country that are not as economically attractive for firms to invest in infrastructure and services due to lower population densities and lower concentrations of industries, my Department has undertaken a number of initiatives to facilitate the roll-out of advanced communications infrastructure which seek to address gaps in communications infrastructure in regional Ireland and lower the cost differentials between the regions.

In 1999, under the National Development Plan, 1994-1999, and INTERREG II, €26.5 million was made available to support the roll-out of broadband to the regions. Thirteen projects which rolled-out broadband nationwide to a value – both public and private funding – of €70 million were supported and are now completed. These projects entailed the roll-out of broadband services in the Border, midlands and west region and the south and east region.

Under the National Development Plan, 2000-2006, the figure allocated to telecommunications initiatives was approximately €200 million. Funding under this communications and e-commerce measure of the NDP will be utilised to leverage and accelerate investment in competitive advanced information and communications infrastructure and services which will enhance the potential for the development of electronic commerce facilities and enable the electronic provision of public services, including education services, virtual libraries, welfare and health services.

A first call for proposals was run in 2000 and on foot of submissions received, nine contracts were signed at the beginning of last year which will result in additional investment in the regions in broadband infrastructure and increased availability of broadband services for business and residential users. The projects involved are scheduled to be completed by the end of next year and will entail an overall investment of €160 million in broadband leveraged from grant assistance of approximately €55 million.

Among these projects ESB is building a new national fibre backbone, Nevadatele is developing regional e-commerce centres and Esat is extending its national network and accelerating its roll-out of DSL in 40 locations. The broadband programme announced in March will involve 20 projects which will lead to the construction of metropolitan area fibre optic networks in towns, to link up with the existing backbone network in the country. The town links will facilitate consumers, educational establishments, industry and business and provide “always on” low cost and high speed Internet access which will drive the Government's e-commerce agenda. By reducing the cost of access to fibre rings, it will facilitate the provision of broadband services by a greater a number of operators and the ensuing competition [255] should benefit the end users in these towns. The relevant local authorities have been asked to enter procurement to establish firm prices for their proposals. Once procurement is completed, and subject to satisfactory pricing, contracts will be offered for these projects in the order that the local authorities complete the procurement processes to the satisfaction of my Department. It is anticipated that this will take place over the coming months. It is expected that these projects will be completed progressively over the next two years.

The amount of Exchequer funding spent since 1999 on the roll-out of broadband to the regions is as follows: 1999 –€600,530; 2000 –€3,462,095; 2001 –€26,566,000; and 2002 –€5,593,000.

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