From Declan Breathnach, TD 21 June 2016
To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the additional efforts and focus being provided to insure the speedy roll-out of high-speed broadband to businesses, homes and schools, which are at serious disadvantage in this imbalance of broadband delivery, and to publish a detailed plan for same, given the recent survey of broadband usage stating that 25% of small to medium businesses here do not have an online presence and-or no broadband service. [17305/16]
From Minister Denis Naughten, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
I am very conscious of the need for SMEs and micro-enterprises to develop an online trading presence. Data from the EU Commission’s digital economic and social index shows that 32% of Irish SMEs are trading online, which ranks Ireland first among 28 EU Member States where the average is 16%. Research commissioned by my Department shows however that small businesses tend to be significantly less engaged in online activity. Supporting more micro-enterprises to develop an online presence is a key priority and my Department’s Trading Online Voucher Scheme is yielding strong results. Small and micro-enterprises that have developed an online trading presence through this scheme, are experiencing growth of 21% with 3 in 5 beginning to export, and the potential for 1.4 new jobs per company. The scheme continues to operate through the Local Enterprise Office Network, and offers a financial incentive of up to €2,500 per business to develop a trading online presence.
Delivering high speed broadband to all businesses in Ireland is another key support for SMEs and micro-enterprises. The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to deliver high speed services to every city, town, village and individual premises in Ireland. The Programme for a Partnership Government commits to the delivery of the NBP as a matter of priority. This is being achieved through private investment by commercial telecommunications companies and through a State intervention in areas where commercial investment is not forthcoming.
The High Speed Broadband Map, which is available at shows the extent of the State Intervention area, which is the subject of procurement. The areas marked BLUE represent those areas where commercial providers are either currently delivering or have previously indicated plans to deliver high speed broadband services. The Department continues to monitor the commercial deployment plans in the BLUE area to ensure that those services are delivered. The areas marked AMBER on the High Speed Broadband Map represent the target areas for the State Intervention.
The map provides information on a county by county basis with a breakdown of coverage across the townlands in every county. Individuals can check whether their premises is in a BLUE or an AMBER area by scrolling through the map online or entering their Eircode. The Department also has a dedicated mailbox for queries in relation to the map –
The Department conducted extensive consultation and analysis in developing the updated Intervention Strategy, published in December 2015. The Intervention Strategy available at:
sets out a detailed service specification including a requirement that the State-funded network must be capable of delivering high-quality, high speed broadband of at least 30Mbps download and 6Mbps upload, available 99.95% of the time. Together with other detailed technical specifications, this will ensure that a reliable fast service is available to consumers. In addition to these requirements, bidder(s) will be asked to put forward minimum speeds for businesses which can be built into the service standards of the winning bidder(s) and proposals to future-proof the network to meet ongoing demand for bandwidth. To this end, the winning bidder(s) will be subject to periodic reviews on a 3-5 year basis.
Over 750,000 premises are the focus for the procurement process, which formally commenced in December 2015 with the publication of the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire ( ‘PQQ’) and Project Information Memorandum. Five responses were received from prospective bidders to this stage of the competitive procurement process by the deadline of 31 March 2016. The second stage in the procurement process will be a formal invitation to Participate in Dialogue (ITPD) to qualifying bidders. I expect that my Department will move to this stage in the next month. The third stage of the procurement process involves the issue of final tender documentation which follows the dialogue process. Following the submission of final tenders by bidders, a winning bidder(s) will be selected for the contract which will comprise one or two lots as set out in the NBP Intervention Strategy. The Department will then enter into formal contract negotiations with the winning bidder(s). It is expected that contract(s) will be awarded by June 2017.
As part of the competitive process, the Department will engage with winning bidder(s) on the best rollout strategy, in order to target areas of particularly poor service, business needs and / or high demand. This will need to be balanced with the most efficient network rollout plan. A prioritisation programme will be put in place in this regard, in consultation with the Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht. A detailed rollout plan for the network will be published once contract(s) are in place.
The Programme for a Partnership Government commits also to measures to assist in the rollout of the network once a contract is awarded. In this regard, Minister Humphreys is leading on the establishment of county or regional broadband taskforces, working with Local Authorities, Local Enterprise Offices, LEADER Groups and other relevant agencies to help accelerate the broadband network build in rural Ireland, once a contract(s) has been awarded.
In the meantime, my Department continues to liaise closely with industry and relevant other Departments and agencies to assist in the commercial deployment of telecommunications networks. The commercial telecommunications sector has invested over €2bn in upgrading and modernising telecoms networks and services. These investments are further improving the coverage and quality of broadband and mobile voice and data services throughout the country.
The Programme for a Partnership Government also commits to the establishment of a mobile phone and broadband taskforce which will consider further measures to address telecommunications deficits in rural Ireland. My Department is engaging with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, in relation to the terms of reference for the taskforce to ensure delivery of the Programme for Government commitment within the timelines set out. It is likely that the taskforce will involve a number of Government Departments and agencies, as well as engagement with telecommunications operators. My Department has already conducted a number of meetings with vendors and mobile operators to help inform the process and identify what tangible measures can be taken.