National Broadband Coverage Map Published Today – A Significant Step Towards Bridging the Digital Divide
The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Alex White, T.D., today published online national and county maps that identify the homes, businesses and schools where commercial providers will deliver high-speed broadband access by the end of 2016. Minister White said that the State would invest in all the remaining areas to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland has access to high-speed broadband, regardless of where it is located.
The maps, which allow the public to identify their own premises to see whether their high-speed broadband will be provided by a commercial operator or through State intervention, can be accessed at www.broadband.gov.ie. The website also carries county-by-county statistics on planned broadband coverage.
Launching the maps and an accompanying consultation document in Doolin, County Clare, the Minister said his department plans to issue a public tender for the state intervention by the end of 2015.
Minister White said: “The delivery of high quality broadband is about ensuring that our citizens in rural Ireland have the same life chances, and the same access to information, culture, ideas, social interaction and opportunity that people in urban areas can enjoy. It’s also about jobs in the rural economy. By ensuring access to high quality broadband we will help attract investment and ensure that businesses in rural Ireland can stay in rural Ireland. We will also enable people to live in their local communities and work from home if that works for them. And it’s about families and communities – helping us keep in touch with loved ones, enabling our children to use the internet as a rich learning resource at school and at home, and giving people rapid access to a full range of public services.”
A consultation on the content of the maps, which closes on 12th February 2015, will ensure that they accurately reflect the extent of planned state investment in high-speed broadband infrastructure. This is necessary to ensure that the State intervention does not compete with commercial provision, as is required under EU state aid guidelines. The map shows that:
- There are around 2.3 million premises in the Republic of Ireland.
- The commercial telecoms industry intends to invest to deliver high-speed broadband access to 1.6 million homes and businesses – 68% of the premises in the state – by the end of 2016.
- The remaining 600,000 homes and 100,000 businesses will require direct State intervention to provide high-speed broadband access.
- The direct State intervention will be a huge infrastructural programme akin to rural electrification in the last century.
Minister White said the next phase of the intervention strategy would be completed by summer 2015, after which he would move quickly to the procurement phase of the project. In the first half of next year, my officials will be:
- Deciding on the most appropriate governance and ownership model for the new infrastructure
- Judging whether it would be better built by one contractor or a number of contractors
- Exploring the funding options
- Analysing the impact on the broader telecommunications market, and
- Preparing a submission to the European Commission on the state aid aspects of the plan.
Minister White said: “With today’s publication of a high-speed broadband national coverage map – along with a consultation document – we have moved a significant step closer to closing the digital divide and meeting our commitment to the rural communities of Ireland. Today’s event is a demonstration of my commitment to ensure that ever more people have access to high speed broadband – month-on-month, year-on-year – until the last home, school and business is connected. It is my personal hope that this can be achieved by 2020.”