Dáil Éireann - Volume 597 - 08 February, 2005

Written Answers - Telecommunications Services.

  141. Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has issued instructions or directives to combat Internet or mobile phone pornography; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3645/05]

  305. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has issued instructions or directives to combat Internet or mobile phone pornography; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3969/05]

  Mr. N. Dempsey: I propose to take Questions Nos. 141 and 305 together.

Legislation to combat illegal pornographic material is already in place. It is an offence under section 13 of the Post Office (Amendment) Act 1951, as amended by the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act 1983, to send by phone any message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character. It is also an offence under section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 to harass a person by use of any means, including by use of a telephone. My colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, is responsible for policy regarding the protection of children from the transmission of pornographic images by phones and other media. Anyone who has information on these matters should bring it immediately to the attention of the Garda Síochána for criminal investigation.

  142. Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the policy directives he has given to the communications regulator in regard to targets relating to the provision of broadband services throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3689/05]

  300. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the policy directives he has given to the communications regulator in regard to targets relating to the provision of broadband services throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3964/05]

  Mr. N. Dempsey: I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 300 together.

In March 2004, my predecessor, Deputy Dermot Ahern, under section 13 of the Communications Regulation Act 2002, issued policy directions to the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, including one on broadband. This direction required Com[408] Reg to use regulatory and enforcement tools, where necessary and subject to relevant requirements under European and national law, to support initiatives to develop broadband and remove regulatory barriers, if any exist, to such initiatives. ComReg was required to have a particular focus on the residential and SME sectors, balanced regional development and potential for broadband provision on alternative platforms. The goal set for ComReg was to be at, or better than, the EU 15 average, excluding accession countries, for end-user access to, and usage of, broadband by mid-2005.

In its latest report on the policy directions, ComReg has reported that there were more than 114,000 DSL customers as of December 2004, an increase of over 50% in the previous three months. There are, in addition, around 16,000 other broadband connections provided through a mixture of wireless and leased line applications.

While the primary technology deployed here, DSL, which, incidentally, is that in use generally across Europe, will not be available to 100% of the population, other technologies such as fixed wireless access and satellite will extend the coverage. Overall levels for coverage of broadband now exceed 75% and are in line with the European average as outlined in the March 2004 policy direction. In the future, the acceleration of local loop unbundling should stimulate improved broadband offerings.

In addition, initiatives by the operators to supply broadband are being supplemented by a range of Government initiatives, including metropolitan area networks, MANs, schools broadband and community broadband. ComReg is working closely with the appropriate parties on all these initiatives.