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Heydon warns of land grab attempt by commercial broadband operators as campaign for rural broadband continues

Fine Gael TD for Kildare South, and Chair of the Fine Gael Internal Committee on Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Martin Heydon, speaking in the Dail yesterday (Tuesday), has warned Minister Alex White of his concern that commercial operators are attempting a land grab of areas for the roll out of high speed broadband in rural areas.

“A year to the day since the publication of the national high speed coverage map 2016 which highlighted the areas that would get state led intervention, I raised my concern that private operators such as eir, are failing to give clear timelines as to when they will deliver on their commitments to roll out high speed broadband in specific areas.

“The map marked out areas in blue and amber depending on whether they were going to get commercial high-speed broadband from the private sector or needed State-led intervention. Certain parts of Kildare including Narraghmore, Calverstown, Kilmeade, Brannockstown and Maganey, were marked in amber on the Minister’s map one year ago and were due for State-led intervention.

“Subsequently, they were included in Eircom’s fibre broadband roll-out plan last June. This was met with much local enthusiasm, as something was finally going to happen. However, despite my repeated requests of eir, as it is now known, I have been unable to get a clear timeframe for the roll out of broadband to these areas.

“The Department of Communications intends to publish an updated version of the map before the end of the year and hopes to then proceed to formal procurement, which would be welcome. My concern however, was that those Kildare areas now to be covered by eir might be excluded from the updated version of the map of State-led intervention that the Minister is about to publish, yet we will not have a commitment from the private sector on when it will invest in broadband in these areas.

“The Minister for Communications, Alex White, has shown an understanding of the issues I raised and has assured me that there is a rigorous scrutiny of the proposals of private commercial operators to extend their area of coverage. I was reassured that areas will not be removed from the state led intervention map without proof that the private operators will provide the services sooner than the state.

“A great deal has been done to address the structural deficit in certain parts of Ireland outside the larger urban areas and the deficiency in certain areas which lack high-speed broadband. High speed broadband services have been rolled out to more than 55,000 premises in County Kildare to date, with more than 12,500 more expected to be served by commercial investment by the end of 2016. Approximately 20,500 remaining premises in Kildare will either be covered by further commercial investment or will be targets for proposed State intervention.

“I also acknowledge the inclusion of broadband in the recent Government Capital Investment Plan, the first time in which we have seen significant direct Exchequer funding for broadband provision. Normally, capital plans cover only schools, hospitals, physical buildings and roads, but this is a real recognition that broadband, which is perhaps invisible, is equally important infrastructure for the State.

“I look forward to the publication of the revised national coverage map and formal procurement plans in December and I hope that the areas still awaiting adequate services in South Kildare will soon see progress.”