Fine Gael TD for Kildare South, and Chair of the Party’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, Martin Heydon, has welcomed the requirement by Minister for Communications, Alex White, that commercial operators sign up to commitment contracts for areas where they wish to provide broadband services. Without these contracts, the areas cannot be removed from the Government High Speed Broadband Map. The Minister was speaking today (Tuesday) as he formally opened the procurement process for the state intervention to provide high quality, high speed broadband nationwide by 2020.

“I had been concerned in recent months that some rural areas still awaiting high speed broadband, including many places in Kildare South, would be excluded from the Government intervention plan, as they had now been included in the proposals of commercial operators with no clear timelines for the provision of services. Areas such as Cavlerstown, Narraghmore, Kilmeade & Mageney were included in an Eir announcement last June with little detail of concrete timelines for delivery since.  I raised this criticism with Minister Alex White in a Dáil debate on the 24th of November. I am delighted that he has taken my points on board with today’s announcement.

“The Minister confirmed this morning that if areas were excluded from the Government map they would be solely dependent on the commercial operators for the delivery of the services and so he and his Department had to be sure that the plans were of a similar nature, quality and scale. He confirmed that, to date, no commercial operators had satisfied all critieria set by his Department and so no areas have been removed from the Government’s broadband map.

“I very much welcome additional private investment in the area of rural broadband provision and I believe the state intervention plans have made the investment process more competitive. The ball is in the court of the commercial operators now, with the door left open for them to continue to try to meet the Department criteria and to sign commitment contracts that give everyone certainty. A document published with the Strategy today sets out the approach to managing future changes that may be necessary to the High Speed Broadband Map throughout procurement and during the rollout of the high speed broadband network.

“I am glad that those areas still awaiting adequate high level broadband services now have two chances; the provision of service by commercial operators or the availability of the state funded intervention in the absence of the commercial provider.

“Broadband provision is not a luxury and the state needs to forge ahead with its timelines for delivery. A further milestone has been reached today with the start of the procurement process. The state plan, combined with private investment where possible, will ensure that 85% of premises in Ireland will have access to high speed broadband by 2018, with 100% access by 2020.”