Dáil Éireann - Volume 523 - 10 October, 2000
Written Answers. - Telecommunications Services.
Mr. Perry Mr. Perry
65. Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Public Enterprise the discussions that have taken place with the major communications providers to bring forward proposals on the need to provide the smaller towns and villages in counties Sligo and Leitrim with a full range of broad band facilities to ensure they can link into the broadband networks; the proposals or submissions that have been made for the servicing of these areas; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that such towns and villages like Ballymote, Tubbercurry and Strandhill will be seriously disadvantaged if they are outside the range of full telecommunications services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21039/00]
Mrs. O'Rourke Mrs. O'Rourke
Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke): The provision of telecommunications services is a matter in the first instance for the companies who now operate in a fully liberalised market. My responsibility is for public policy in the sector within which these companies operate. Irish telecommunications policy has traditionally attempted to ensure the widest possible availability of competitive services throughout the  regions. I have, in recent years, put in place a number of initiatives, which seek to address gaps in communications infrastructure in Ireland.
Under the National Development Plan, 1994-1999, IR£21 million was made available to support the roll-out of broadband to the regions. This figure has been significantly increased under the National Development Plan, 2000-2006, to IR£147 million. The allocation of this funding is the responsibility of my Department. Funding under this communications and e-commerce measure of the NDP will be utilised to leverage and accelerate investment in competitive advanced information and communications infrastructure and services which will enhance the potential for the development of electronic commerce facilities and enable the electronic provision of public services, including education services, virtual libraries, welfare and health services.
Two-thirds of the funding under this measure is being made available in the Border, midlands and west region, which contains the counties of Sligo and Leitrim. A competition has been run by my Department to allocate the first IR£77 million of the funding. The competition process was executed over the summer months, with a closing date of 22 September last. Given the liberalised nature of the telecommunications sector, the competition was run on the basis of public sector co-funding of network extensions to regional areas where it would not be commercially viable to do so at this point in time. The competition criteria specifically award points for the provision of services in deficit areas and the removal of regional barriers. Such criteria promote the inclusion of towns such as Ballymote, Tubbercurry and Strandhill in project proposals by telecommunications operators. The town of Strandhill is previously a beneficiary through an Eircom project, which was supported under the National Development Plan 1994-1999. This project involved upgrading of Eircom's switching network throughout the west region.
An extensive mail-out of information surrounded the call for proposals. All communications operators were informed of the possibilities presented by the competition for developing broadband networks in the BMW region. Business and community leaders throughout the BMW region in organisations such as chambers of commerce, local authorities and development agencies were also informed of the opportunities available through both the lobbying of and the developing of partnerships with telecommunications companies. A large number of project submissions from the Border, midlands and west region have been received. The submissions are currently being assessed and evaluated at arms length by independent consultants under the competition criteria. It is anticipated that contracts on selected projects will be signed before the end of the year and work on further exten sions to broadband networks will start early next year.
Mr. Creed Mr. Creed
66. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Public Enterprise the current situation regarding local loop unbundling by a company (details supplied); if this is being facilitated by directive or regulation at EU level; the reason the networks of cable TV companies and others are not being made available to other telecommunication companies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21134/00]
Mrs. O'Rourke Mrs. O'Rourke
Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke): I refer the Deputy to my reply on 3 October 2000 to Questions Nos. 299, 300, 301, 319 and 324.
The Council of Telecommunications Ministers at its meeting of 3 October reached agreement in principle on an amended draft of the proposed regulation of the Council and the European Parliament on unbundling the local loop and instructed the Committee of Permanent Representatives to seek, in dialogue with the European Parliament, to have the regulation adopted at its first reading before the end of this year. The European Parliament is currently considering a number of proposed amendments to the regulation and is expected to vote on these amendments later this month. If agreement is reached by the Council on the text as approved by the European Parliament, it is expected that the regulation will be adopted before the end of the year.
Dáil Éireann 523 Written Answers. Telecommunications Services.