Dáil Éireann - Volume 623 - 04 July, 2006

Written Answers. - Telecommunications Services.

Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent of broadband coverage in County Laois; the towns and villages where this is available and planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25666/06]

  Mr. N. Dempsey: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 Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), the independent regulator.

My Department’s website www.broadband.gov.ie lists all service providers offering broadband services in all towns in Laois, and gives contact details for each company, together with prices for the various service levels on offer. It has been clear for some time that the sector has failed to invest at the level necessary to keep pace with the demand for broadband, so my Department’s regional broadband programme is addressing the infrastructure deficit by building high speed, open access broadband networks, in association with the local and regional authorities, in the major towns and cities. These Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) will allow the private sector to offer world-class broadband services at competitive costs.

Twenty-seven MANs are now completed, including Portlaoise. The second phase of the programme involves the building of MANs in over 90 towns with a population of 1,500 and above that do not have a satisfactory broadband offering from the private sector. Laois is developing detailed route designs in respect of the following towns: Portarlington and Mountmellick. The appointment of project managers and works contractors is expected towards the end of this year. Construction on these projects will commence in early 2007, with an estimated completion date of quarter 3 2007. My Department administers a group broadband scheme, which delivers broadband to many under-served areas. Under the first phase of the scheme projects were approved for Stradbally, Abbeyleix and Mountrath, County Laois. These schemes are now fully operational and providing a broadband service. Under the second phase of the scheme projects were approved for Clonaslee, Killenard, Emo, The Heath, Ballybrittas, Kilminchy, Ballacolla, Durrow and Rathdowney, Co.L[366] aois. Furthermore, a joint industry/Government fund of €18 million has been established for the Broadband for Schools Programme, which should provide every school in the country with broadband in 2006. This is a crucial strand in the strategy of integrating ICT into teaching and learning, and my Department’s wider vision of promoting the use of broadband technologies in local communities around the country. The installation phase is now almost complete, with over 90% of all schools broadband enabled.