Government must invest in broadband

Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil T.D. Brendan Smith in a series of Parliamentary Questions in Dáil Eireann has raised again the urgent need to provide modern broadband telecommunications infrastructure for all of Co. Cavan and for all of Co. Monaghan.

In all of his contributions Deputy Smith outlined the need to provide much improved broadband infrastructure throughout specific areas of both counties and also the need to ensure that all areas of both counties have modern and appropriate broadband telecommunications to meet the needs of households and business.

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in his replies to Deputy Smith stated –

“The Government’s National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure that every citizen and business, regardless of location, has access to a high quality, high speed broadband service. This is being 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 has invested over €2 billion in network upgrades and enhanced services in the last four years, and is continuing to invest. These very significant investments represent a step change in the quality of broadband services available.

On 22 December 2015, I formally launched the procurement process for the State intervention to provide high quality, high speed broadband to all premises in Ireland that may not be served through commercial investment. The formal procurement process commenced with the publication of the Pre-qualification Questionnaire and Project Information Memorandum. Five responses were received from prospective bidders to this stage of the competitive procurement process by the deadline of 31 March. The responses are now being assessed in line with criteria set down by the Department with a view to selecting qualified provider(s) to proceed to the next stage of the procurement. This second stage in the process will be a formal Invitation to Participate in Dialogue (ITPD) to shortlisted  bidders.

The High Speed Broadband Map 2020, which is available at shows the extent of the State Intervention area. The areas marked BLUE represent those areas where commercial providers are either currently delivering or have plans to deliver high speed broadband services. The area of Butlersbridge and Belturbet, Co. Cavan are in a BLUE area. Based on information provided by commercial operators, which may be subject to change, the roll out of high speed broadband services is planned for Butlersbridge in June 2016, and there are services already available in Belturbet town and from the Shercock exchange, with further upgrades expected in the next  3-6 months.   The areas marked AMBER represent the target areas for the State Intervention. The Killinkere area is in the AMBER area and will be covered by the State Intervention. Consumers can see whether their individual premises is in the BLUE or AMBER area by entering their Eircode on the Map.

The County statistics for both Cavan and Monaghan are set out in the table below, which shows the percentage of premises that are expected to be covered by commercial investments, and the percentage that will be covered by the State Intervention.

County Name Townland Premises currently expected to be covered by State intervention under NBP Existing and Planned commercial High Speed Broadband
Cavan County 1,979 townlands 24,197 premises to be covered by NBP – 39% 61%
Monaghan County 1,849 townlands 19,551 premises to be covered by NBP – 58% 42%

The intention is to build out the network in the AMBER area as quickly as possible. The procurement process is underway and it is proposed to engage with the winning bidder(s) in due course on the optimum rollout strategy, and on the sequencing of the network deployment to maximise efficiencies during network build, having regard to business and consumer needs, and to areas of particularly poor service and areas of strong demand. All these factors will need to be balanced against the most efficient network rollout and will be agreed during the procurement process.

Engagement with industry stakeholders as part of the pre-procurement consultations has indicated that the rollout in the Amber area could be achieved within 3-5 years of the contract award. In this context, the NBP proposes that through the combination of commercial investment and State intervention, 85% of all premises in Ireland (both commercial and intervention area) will have access to high speed broadband within two years of the contract award, with 100% of premises connected within 5 years.

I welcome recent initiatives by Cavan County Council in particular to work with the Department and with telecommunications operators to facilitate the upgrade of services in the area. Local Authorities will continue to play a key role in the efficient rollout of infrastructure in their areas”, concluded Minister White.

Brendan Smith told Northern Sound that since those replies given in Dáil Éireann there have been indications that there will be further delays in the rollout of the National Broadband Plan. He stated that further delays will not be acceptable and rural Ireland needs this investment to ensure the maintenance of existing jobs and the creation of much need employment throughout both counties.