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 Header Item Order of Business (Continued)
 Header Item ESB (Electronic Communications Networks) Bill 2013: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 830 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl] Why will the Government not bring the publication of the sale of loan books to unregulated third parties Bill forward from 2015? It appears this legislation could offer practical assistance to the people to whom I refer. In the past the Government demonstrated its ability to bring forward legislation as a matter of urgency. Why is this legislation not a matter of urgency?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Is there any chance that the Bill might be introduced earlier?

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The preparation of the Bill is obviously a matter for the Minister for Finance. As stated previously, the concerns of mortgage holders are being dealt with by the Government as a matter of urgency in any event. The mortgage books of two institutions have already been sold. In both cases the purchasers are applying the code of conduct relating to mortgage arrears. Work has already been done on this matter.

Deputy Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey There are serious concerns with regard to rateable valuations and the review that is currently under way in many local authority areas. Of course, that review presents challenges for small businesses and retailers. Reform is proposed under the Valuation (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012. When will that legislation be introduced in the Dáil?

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Bill is currently before the Seanad. It is quite complex and technical in nature. Due in part to the issues that were raised during the consultation process, a large number of amendments will be proposed on Committee Stage. There has been a delay in the context of proceeding with Committee Stage in the Upper House. Issues relating to the consultation process and the complexity of the legislation and the retirement of the official in the Office of the Parliamentary Council who was overseeing its drafting during 2013 has contributed to that delay. The amendments that will be proposed on Committee Stage in the Seanad are at an advanced stage of drafting. Every effort is being made to expedite the passage of the Bill. It is expected to progress through the Oireachtas before the summer recess.

ESB (Electronic Communications Networks) Bill 2013: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I move amendment No. 4:

In page 5, after line 38, to insert the following:
“Change of name of Bord Gáis Éireann to Ervia

8. (1) The name of the body (established by section 7 of the Gas Act 1976) the present name of which is, in the Irish language, Bord Gáis Éireann and, in the English language, The Irish Gas Board, shall, on and from such day as the Minister appoints by order, be Ervia.

(2) References in any enactment, statutory instrument, legal proceedings or any other document to Bord Gáis Éireann or The Irish Gas Board shall, on and from the day appointed under subsection (1), be construed as references to Ervia.”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.

  Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I thank the parties and Independents opposite for facilitating the passage of this legislation. It is, as those on all sides have agreed, important in the context of enhancing the quality of broadband available in provincial Ireland. I welcome the investment by the main companies in the sector that is proceeding in conjunction with this legislation.

Deputy Colreavy inquired about rural areas which may not be covered by the current initiative. I must inform him that the mapping exercise relating to the implementation of the national broadband plan is very well advanced. As soon as that process is concluded and our negotiations with the EU have been completed, we will proceed as fast as may be with the implementation of the national broadband plan. What we are doing here - with the approval of the various parties in the House - is enacting enabling legislation to permit the ESB, on its own or in conjunction with another company or companies, to use its existing supply infrastructure to roll out to areas of provincial Ireland fibre-optic technology that has been future proofed. This will be a very significant step in enhancing the level of connectivity that is available to those in provincial Ireland.

I again thank colleagues for facilitating the passage of the legislation.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy I wish to convey to the Minister and his officials the appreciation of Deputy Moynihan, who could not be present because he has an appointment elsewhere, in respect of this legislation. While I understand that the legislation will greatly improve the provision of broadband services in urban settings, I take this opportunity to refer, as I did during a Topical Issue debate prior to Christmas, to the provision of such services in rural areas. I welcome the Minister's confirmation to the effect that the mapping process is well advanced. I plead with him and his officials to make this matter a top priority. Rural Ireland is dying. The provision of broadband services to rural areas is critical. The village from which I come contains four small shops and it is no longer possible to purchase mobile phone credit at any of them. The only place one can get such credit is the local post office. The reason for this is that there is no broadband coverage in the area. The local petrol station only opens four days per week instead of seven. If there was broadband coverage available, the owner would be able to install a special machine so that people might purchase fuel on a self-service basis even when the station is closed.

The provision of broadband services would help, to some degree, in alleviating the problems rural Ireland is facing. I appeal to the Minister to make dealing with deficiencies in the provision of broadband services in rural areas a top priority. On behalf of my colleague, Deputy Moynihan, I thank the Minister and his officials for bring the Bill before the House.

Deputy Michael Colreavy: Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy Notwithstanding my continuing concerns with regard to the possible sale of the utility involved, from the outset I have stated my belief that this is very good legislation. I will seek another way to ensure that my concerns in respect of the selling of networks might be addressed.

The legislation has the potential to improve broadband access dramatically throughout the country. However, it also increases the possibility that a two-speed Ireland will be created. If one looks at a map of this country, one will discover that there is very little infrastructure in the west. Broadband is the one area in respect of which the west should be able to keep up to speed with the remainder of the country. I appreciate the Minister's comments to the effect that the mapping exercise is almost complete. I am aware, however, of a number of businesses which cannot continue to operate because they cannot obtain broadband access. I know the owners of two businesses who are obliged to drive around in their cars in order to locate a signal strong enough to allow them to transact business electronically. People should not have to do that in this day and age.

As soon as the information becomes available to him, will the Minister provide an indicative timescale regarding when the public service obligation aspect of this matter will be addressed? There will be no difficulty providing broadband services to centres of population because the number of potential customers will make it commercially viable to do so. Will the Minister, as soon as is possible, outline an indicative timescale as to when broadband services will be made available to people who live in areas to which the provision of such services would not be considered commercially viable? This is an important matter and it is having an impact in the context of existing and potential future employment. Each day or week the people to whom I refer are obliged to wait for broadband services is a day or a week too many.

Deputy Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey I thank the Minister and his officials for bringing the Bill before the House.


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