Dáil Éireann - Volume 625 - 19 October, 2006
Written Answers. - Telecommunications Services.
Mr. McGinley Mr. McGinley
Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the serious concerns of the business sector in regard to the availability of broadband; if action is proposed to deal with broadband deficiencies in terms of quality or availability throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33551/06]
Mr. Naughten Mr. Naughten
Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the steps he is taking to roll-out broadband to areas not currently serviced by the network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33497/06]
Mr. N. Dempsey Mr. N. Dempsey
Mr. N. Dempsey: I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 105 together.
The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. The Government is addressing the infrastructure deficit in the regions by building high-speed, open-access Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) in 120 towns and cities nationwide. Phase One of this Programme has delivered fibre optic networks to 27 towns and cities throughout the country.
This Programme has been extended to over 90 towns in various locations nationwide under Phase Two. It is expected that these MANs will be completed during 2006 and 2007. These networks will allow the private sector to offer world-class broadband services at competitive costs. The initial target customers of the MANs will be large corporate users and extending to SMEs and residential broadband users in the medium term.
The Department also offers funding assistance for smaller towns and rural communities through the Group Broadband Scheme. The scheme is  technology-neutral, allowing the community to select the most suitable broadband delivery platform for the area. To date, over 160 projects have been approved for funding under this Programme. Although the most recent call for proposals has now closed, I expect to be announcing further schemes of this nature shortly. A joint industry/Government fund of €18 million has been established for the Broadband for Schools Programme to resource the provision of high speed broadband connectivity to all primary and post primary schools in the country by end Autumn 2006, at no cost to the schools themselves. 95% of schools have broadband installed to date.
Despite Government investment in broadband through the regional broadband programme, there are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband connectivity. Options to address the gaps in broadband coverage are currently being considered.
Dáil Éireann 625 Written Answers. Telecommunications Services.