Government releases broadband intervention strategy

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15 July 2015 | 0

Minister for Communications Alex White today published the latest broadband intervention strategy, which sets out how the Government proposes to ensure the provision of high-speed connectivity in areas where the commercial sector will not invest on its own.

The draft strategy, and seven detailed expert reports on specific aspects of the intervention, will now be subject to public consultation, which is required under EU rules for state aid interventions. The consultation runs until 14 September 2015.

Under the National Broadband Plan (NBP), the Government committed to delivering high-speed broadband of minimum 30Mb/s to every home, school and business in the country by 2020. The strategy published today explains what will be expected of companies that bid to deliver the state intervention element of the NBP.

Minister White said: “In 2010, before this Government came to office, high-speed broadband was only available to 300,000 homes in Ireland. That figure has grown to well over a million homes, with the potential for commercial operators to deliver high-speed services to as many as 1.9 million premises.

“Under the intervention strategy… we expect that 85% of the premises in Ireland will have access to high-speed broadband in 2018, increasing to 100% by 2020.

“It takes time and detailed planning to deliver a programme of this scale and ambition. It is an infrastructure for the future. We will only be doing it once, and we intend to get it right.”

Competitive
The announcement was welcomed by Ibec head of policy and chief economist Fergal O’Brien, who said: “Despite an investment of €2.5 billion by the private sector over the past five years, 30% of commercial and residential premises still do not have access to high speed broadband. This has a huge impact on job creation, social inclusion and competitiveness. Ibec welcomes the Minister’s proposals and urges businesses to participate in the public consultation.

“Small and medium sized firms without high speed broadband are unable to compete on a level playing  for the estimated €5.9 billion currently spent online annually by Irish consumers. This has forced some to relocate, but this isn’t an option for many, particularly those in the hospitality sector. It also affects the thousands of people who work from home or who need high speed broadband in their homes to connect with colleagues overseas in different time zones and out of hours.

“The reality is that without high speed broadband significant parts of Ireland risk being left behind. It is vital that the Government invests ambitiously by committing sufficient funding to deliver high speed broadband throughout Ireland by 2020 wherever it is uneconomic for the private sector to do so.”

Also reacting to the announcement Sean Atkinson, CEO of Siro – a joint venture of Vodafone and ESB providing wholesale broadband products through a fibre-to-the-building network – said: “The National Broadband Plan is a fantastic opportunity for Ireland to retire its old copper-based access broadband network and switch to a 100% fibre optic system, putting the country on a par with leading international hubs for connectivity, such as Tokyo and Hong Kong.  While the National Broadband Plan aims to guarantee speeds of at least 30Mb/s in hard to reach rural areas, SIRO is focused on delivering a 1Gb/s connection powered by a 100% fibre optic connection to every premises that forms part of our network.”

Last year, the Government published a high-speed broadband map outlining areas in greatest need of a network upgrade with a view to publishing a full strategy this year. The arrival of the report heralds the opening of a bidding process to service these areas.

It is expected the successful bidders will be selected by the middle of 2016.

The public consultation documents are available at www.broadband.gov.ie.

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