– Goalposts keep changing on target times –
Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has called on the Taoiseach to clarify when all homes and businesses will have access to a high-speed broadband connection. Large parts of Cavan and Monaghan fall under the Government’s National Broadband Plan, but the timeframe for connections has been pushed out time and time again.
Deputy Smith commented, “The National Broadband Plan was announced in 2012 but almost 6 years later we are still waiting for contracts to be signed to roll out high-speed broadband to homes and businesses in Monaghan and Cavan, and right across the country. There are over 32,000 people across the two counties dependent on the Government’s plan and the latest update from the Communications Minister Denis Naughten revealed that it could be another 5 years before these premises are connected.
“It has become clear that Minister Naughten has lost interest in pursuing the roll out of the NBP so I am now calling on the Taoiseach to intervene directly and outline where exactly the plan is at, and how long it will be before all homes and businesses will have access to quality, high-speed broadband.
“Broadband is one of the single biggest issues facing rural communities and the Government’s handling of the NBP has been nothing short of shambolic. The Programme for Government set a target of June 2017 for the awarding of the tender with a commitment to ‘to accelerate the roll out of the infrastructure next year .’
“This Government has a serious issue when it comes to delivery. It has been making promise after promise but has failed to follow through. Every single target on broadband for rural Ireland has been missed.
“The Taoiseach needs to step up to the mark now and outline his Government’s plan to roll out broadband. People are tired of the spin over substance; this Government needs to start delivering”.
For Written Answer on : 29/11/2017
Question Number(s): 408 Question Reference(s): 51162/17
Department: Communications, Climate Action and Environment
[Ref No.: 51162/17] * To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his attention has been drawn to the ongoing concerns in relation to poor mobile telephone coverage in areas such as counties Cavan and Monaghan; if he has discussed with the Communications Regulator the need for the telecommunications companies to make the necessary investments to ensure that all areas have adequate mobile coverage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Brendan Smith. * For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 29th November, 2017. (905 Received on 3rd November, 2017.)
Providing telecommunications services, including mobile phone services, is a matter for the relevant service providers operating in a fully liberalised market regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), as independent Regulator. I do not have statutory authority to require commercial companies to rollout services and make specific investments in particular locations. The ComReg consumer helpline is accessible at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would urge consumers who feel they have not received an appropriate response from service providers to make contact with the Regulator.
Notwithstanding ComReg’s independence, I recognise the frustration felt by Irish consumers – including in Counties Cavan and Monaghan – where telecommunications networks are not always delivering the services people expect. Accordingly, I specifically included in the Programme for Government a commitment to a Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce. In July 2016, I established the Taskforce to identify immediate solutions to broadband and mobile phone coverage deficits and investigate how better services could be provided to consumers, prior to the full build and roll-out of the network planned under the National Broadband Plan State intervention.
The Taskforce worked with key stakeholders to produce the December 2016 report available on my Department’s website, which contains 40 actions to alleviate some of the deficits. The Implementation Group I co-chair with Minister Kyne is overseeing implementation of the actions and comprises all key stakeholders responsible for delivery. This includes ComReg, who attend as both an action owner, and in an observer capacity in their role as the independent Regulator. Three meetings of the Implementation Group have been held so far – on 8 March, 5 July and 22 November.
This week I published the third Taskforce Quarterly Progress Report, which demonstrates that good progress has been made in delivering the actions. These reports show continuing progress and also the sustained level of engagement between actions owners and industry.
This engagement was clear in October at first National Stakeholder Forum in Athlone, which I hosted with Minister Kyne. It arose from the Taskforce’s recognition that, given the rapid technological change and the emergence of new equipment and solutions to deliver telecommunications services, stakeholders needed an opportunity to raise concerns on impediments to the rollout of services. Issues impacting on rollout were discussed at the Forum, and there were also some new recommended actions for the Taskforce to help improve services to consumers and in preparing for roll-out of the National Broadband Plan network, once contracts are in place.
The Taskforce’s achievements to date include:
- Funding of all local authorities to assign a Broadband Officer;
- Close cooperation with local authorities to develop local digital strategies, including Government working closely with local authorities to identify approximately 320 high speed Strategic Community Access Hubs to be connected at an early juncture after award of the NBP contract;
- ComReg’s development of a testing regime to check mobile handset performance which will inform consumers in choosing products and network services. ComReg will also develop a new network coverage map.
- Most local authorities applying waivers in respect of development contributions for telecoms development.
- Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) has constructed 80km of ducting on the M7/M8 corridor and 14km on the N25 in Cork, with more following in the coming months to help expedite infrastructure roll-out. TII is also reviewing the cost of duct access for telecoms. All of these initiatives should assist in enhancing the quality of mobile phone and data services, particularly in rural areas such as Counties Cavan and Monaghan.
- In tandem with the work of the Taskforce, the release by ComReg of the 3.6GHz radio spectrum band, which has been identified at EU level as a primary band suitable for the introduction of 5G, will also contribute to addressing increasing mobile data demands and improve mobile coverage. Mobile operators’ commercial investment has also resulted in improved services, following ComReg’s 2012 multi-band spectrum auction. At least one operator now has in excess of 90% 4G population coverage.