Cork East Fine Gael TD, David Stanton sought an update on progress with the implementation of the National Broadband Plan in from the Minister for Communications in Dail Eireann this week. The National Broadband Plan, to bring broadband speeds of 30 Mbps to all premises by 2020, includes a state led investment aspect for areas of the country not covered by commercial operators.
“Despite many improvements in broadband access and speeds in cities and towns across the country there are many areas in East Cork where coverage is poor and often expensive. From what I hear from constituents, it is not necessarily just rural areas which are affected but often people in towns can have problems due to local network issues. Poor coverage and speed has an impact on education in rural schools and on rural businesses.
“While a substantial amount of work was completed by Eircom a number of years ago enabling many of the exchanges in East Cork for broadband there are areas, Knockraha in particular comes to mind and Ballymacoda, where planned exchange upgrades did not go ahead as it was not deemed commercially viable to do so. This means that people living in these areas must then look at other broadband options such as satellite which can be less reliable and more expensive.
“I believe from constituents that problems also exist in places such as Ballycotton and Shanagarry where exchanges have been upgraded but phone lines are inadequate to support high speed broadband in some premises and homes. Other local congestion and other problems exist in Midleton and Fermoy relating which means speeds that people experience are often less than what is advertised. The aim of the state led investment aspect of the National Broadband is to ensure all premises have access to a high speed and efficient broadband service over the next five years.
“I understand, further to my questions this week that, as regards the state led investment plan, a public consultation was completed on 12th February 2015 and that this will help inform a comprehensive intervention strategy to be published for further consultation with industry, stakeholders and the public in July. When this has been completed later this year, a formal proposal will be made to the European Commission requesting EU State Aid clearance. Prior to this the Department of Communications is engaging with the Commission on a number of issues related to the state aid aspect of the Plan to help to ensure that no issues arise once a formal application is made.