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Written Answers - Telecommunications Services

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 755 No. 1

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 136. Deputy Sandra McLellan Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan  asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural [162]Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  when broadband will be rolled out in the Gaeltacht area of an Sean Phobal, County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7505/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Ireland’s telecommunications market has been liberalised since 1999 and thus the delivery of broadband services is a matter, in the first instance, for private sector commercial operators.

In cases of market failure the Government will intervene, where it is appropriate and possible to do so. The National Broadband Scheme (NBS) represents such an intervention. EU State Aid and competition rules govern how States can intervene in areas where existing service providers operate. Accordingly, the NBS is prohibited from providing a service in served areas where to do so would give rise to an unacceptable level of market distortion.

The mapping exercise undertaken by my Department at the time of designing the NBS in 2008, found that broadband services were available in the area referred to in the Deputy’s Question and consequently the locality was excluded from the Scheme.

The Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS) was launched last year in recognition of the fact that despite the widespread availability of broadband throughout Ireland, there still remained individual premises that were unable to receive broadband provision, due to technical difficulties such as line of sight issues. This Scheme, which is being rolled out this year, is aimed at making a basic broadband service available to those individual un-served premises in rural non-NBS areas who wish to avail of such services.

The combination of private investment and State interventions means that Ireland will meet the EU Commission’s “Digital Agenda for Europe” target of having a basic broadband service available to all areas by 2013.

The Government accepts that the widespread availability of high speed broadband is a key requirement in delivering future economic and social development. With basic broadband services now widely available across Ireland, the challenge is to accelerate the roll out of high speed services. The Next Generation Broadband Taskforce which I convened last summer has an important role to play in this regard. It comprises the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies operating in the Irish market, as well as CEOs of some other companies that provide broadband services. The Taskforce will conclude its deliberations shortly. I intend to consider the findings and recommendations of the report of the Taskforce as quickly as possible and to make a submission to Government in this regard. It is my objective to move quickly thereafter to put in place the optimal policy environment for the delivery of high speed broadband.

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