Facilitating greater investment in high speed broadband services across Ireland

Mr. Pat Rabbitte, TD, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, today launched the Report of the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce.

Speaking at the launch in Dublin’s Digital Hub, Minister Rabbitte said “Industry is telling us that by 2015 more than 50% of the population will have access to very fast broadband – at least 70 Mbps. We can also expect that most of the rest of Irish homes will be able to access broadband which, by today’s standards would be considered very good quality. However, we face a major challenge because 15-30% of the population will continue to have basic broadband service only, as the case for commercial investment in rural areas is very challenging.

“Our challenge is threefold: firstly, make it easier for the private sector to invest in rollout, secondly encourage citizens and businesses to go online and thirdly address infrastructure deficits. This is essential work to boost Ireland’s competitiveness”

The NGB Taskforce (comprising CEO’s of the leading Telecoms providers in Ireland), has been working with Minister Rabbitte and his Department since June 2011 to pool information and share views about the steps required to accelerate high speed broadband roll out across Ireland.

The report highlights areas where Government and industry can work together to make an impact and makes 42 specific recommendations under five headings:

  • Industry investment plans and likely gaps
  • Stimulation of demand for broadband services.
  • Planning reforms to accelerate build out of essential telecoms infrastructure;
  • Spectrum policy
  • The role of state infrastructure and services

A four week consultation period with users and other stakeholders will run through May. Thereafter the Minister will publish a National Broadband Plan for Ireland setting out the actions that Government will take to ensure the delivery of high quality broadband to all parts of Ireland.

Commenting on recent progress in Irish broadband, Minister Rabbitte noted that “The number of broadband subscribers in Ireland has grown from just over 400,000 to nearly 1.7 million over the past five years. Speeds are also increasing fast as evidenced in the NGBT report and by recent ComReg data as well as international comparative reports.

“However, boosting digital engagement is a key priority for economic growth and social inclusion. Currently 20,000 SMEs are not engaged and 21% of adults do not use the internet.”

Welcoming the publication of the report Minister of State Fergus O’Dowd, TD noted that from the outset the Gov has committed to the accelerated rollout of highspeed broadband. He said “The publication of the taskforce report is an important milestone in helping develop a comprehensive policy to deliver on that objective.”

A four week period of consultation will now begin. Observations on the Report’s contents and industry recommendations, and any other observations on how best to facilitate the provision of high speed broadband, would be welcomed by the Minister. Observations can be submitted electronically to nextgenerationbroadband@dcenr.ie. Thereafter the Minister will publish a National Broadband Plan for Ireland.


Background to the Taskforce

The Taskforce was chaired by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Mr. Pat Rabbitte, TD, supported by Minister of State, Mr. Fergus O’Dowd, TD. Its membership included the CEOs of the six main electronic communications network operators in Ireland: BT, eircom, Hutchison 3G Ireland (3), Telefonica O2, UPC and Vodafone. The CEOs of four other operators were invited to join the Taskforce to help provide the perspective of service providers with less market share in the Irish market. The members of the Taskforce were:

· Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD, Chair · Minister of State, Mr. Fergus O’Dowd, TD
· Ms. Dana Strong, CEO UPC Ireland · Mr. Seán Bolger, CEO Imagine
· Mr. John Shine, Deputy CEO ESB · Mr. Tony Hanway, CEO, Telefonica/O2
· Mr. Paul Donovan, CEO eircom/meteor · Mr. Colm Piercy, CEO Digiweb
· Mr. Robert Finnegan, CEO Hutchison 3GI · Mr. Conal Henry, CEO eNet
· Mr. Jeroen Hoencamp, CEO Vodafone · Mr. Colm O’Neill, CEO BT Ireland
· Mr. Aidan Dunning, Secretary General · Ms. Katherine Licken, Assistant Secretary

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), the Telecommunications and Internet Federation (TIF) and Forfás also participated in observer capacities.

The specific purpose of the Taskforce was to create a forum at which key industry stakeholders could highlight the legislative, policy and regulatory levers that could facilitate greater investment in high speed broadband services across Ireland. It was also designed to identify where gaps in commercial service provision are likely to occur between now and 2020.

The Taskforce established five Working Groups which examined key issues impacting on industry investment in next generation broadband. The conclusions of each of these Groups are detailed in the report.

Industry Recommendations

The report contains details of the Taskforce’s analysis and industry recommendations. The Minister looks forward to feedback on the recommendations in the report from other interested stakeholders, before finalising policy as to Ireland’s response to the second major challenge.

Next Steps

· A 4 week public consultation will start today seeking views of stakeholders on how best to facilitate the rollout of high speed broadband in Ireland.

· The outcome of the above consultations will inform the drafting of a new National Broadband Plan for Ireland which is expected to be published, following a further submission to Government, by July 2012.

Comments are closed.