Dáil Éireann - Volume 638 - 02 October, 2007

Written Answers. - Broadband Services.

Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way broadband services can be enhanced for residents living in rural areas of north Dublin; and his plans for a joint roll-out of services in north Dublin and Meath. [21455/07]

  Deputy Eamon Ryan: The provision of broadband services is, in the first instance, a matter for the private sector. Broadband service providers operate in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation. The role of the Government is to formulate regulatory and infrastructure policies to facilitate the provision of high quality telecommunications services by competing private sector service providers.

The widespread provision of broadband services continues to be a priority for the Government. In that regard my Department has undertaken initiatives to address the gaps in broadband coverage. These include providing grant-aid under the recently concluded Group Broadband Scheme and investment in Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs).

Despite these Government initiatives, there are still some parts of the country where the private [1366] sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband services. Accordingly, the procurement process for a National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is under way. The NBS will provide broadband services to areas that are currently unserved and will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband in unserved areas are met.

The first phase of the procurement process, Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ), is now complete and four candidates have pre-qualified. As my Department indicated on 2 September 2007, the four candidates are, in alphabetical order, BT Communications Ireland Ltd Consortium, Eircom Ltd, Hutchinson 3G Ireland Ltd and IFA/Motorola Consortium. The next phase of the procurement process involves inviting candidates to participate in a competitive dialogue process. My Department is anticipating that the award of the NBS contract will be Quarter 2 of 2008, with rollout of the services due to begin as soon as possible thereafter. This timeline is subject to negotiations with candidates during the competitive dialogue phase of the procurement process.