To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the roll out of improved broadband services in an area (details supplied) in County Kildare; when he expects the mapping process to be concluded and published; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Martin Heydon.
* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 25th September, 2014.
Kilmeade, Athy, Co. Kildare.
36335/14 Proof: 294
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Mr. Alex White T.D.)
The Government’s Statement of Priorities for the period 2014 to 2016 reaffirms our commitment to delivering a State-led broadband intervention in rural areas. Through the National Broadband Plan (NBP) the Government aims to ensure that high speed broadband is available to all citizens and businesses. This is being achieved through measures designed to accelerate commercial investment and the development of a State-led intervention for non-commercial areas.
Under EU State Aid Guidelines Member States cannot intervene where commercial investors have plans to roll out services. A comprehensive mapping exercise is underway in my Department to identify those areas that require a State intervention. An initial list of areas has already identified and includes18 areas including Kilmeade in County Kildare. I am aware also that there are extensive plans for the commercial rollout of high speed services in Kildare.
As part of the mapping process, an initial stakeholder consultation on certain technical aspects of the proposed Plan was launched in June with a deadline of 15th September. 31 submissions were received as part of this process and non-commercially sensitive versions of these responses will be published over the coming weeks.
I expect to publish the maps for public consultation later this year. These will include details of the areas requiring State intervention. It is important to note that these maps will be dynamic and will be subject to change if new commercial investments as announced in the future.
A further public consultation on a proposed comprehensive intervention strategy will be launched in mid-2015.
EU State Aid clearance will be required for the proposed State intervention. My Department will be working closely with the European Commission on this important aspect of the programme.
Finally, a detailed procurement process will have to be undertaken in order to select a potential preferred bidder(s) prior to commencing the roll out of high speed broadband services.
This complex and ambitious project is a key priority for Government and for my Department. It aims to conclusively address current connectivity challenges in a sustainable and meaningful way. Our goal is to ensure that quality broadband services are available to all citizens regardless of where they are located.