Thomas Pringle TD

PQ: Minister says potential for County-level tasks force to oversee broadband roll-out met

[Ref No.: 10779/16]

* To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources how he will prioritise the roll-out of broadband to rural areas and prevent further delays in the National Broadband Plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Thomas Pringle.
* For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 18th May, 2016.

(552 Received on 13th May, 2016.)


Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Denis Naughten)
The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to deliver high speed services to every city, town, village and individual premises in Ireland. The Programme for a Partnership Government commits to the delivery of the NBP as a matter of priority.
It is expected that 70% of all premises in Ireland will receive high speed services from the commercial telecommunications market. The remaining 30% (over 750,000 premises) are the focus of a major State procurement, which formally commenced in December 2015 with the publication of the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire ( ‘PQQ’) and Project Information Memorandum.
Five responses have been received from prospective bidders to this stage of the competitive procurement process by the deadline of 31 March 2016. The five responses are being assessed in line with the criteria set down by the Department with a view to shortlisted qualified bidders proceeding to the next stage of procurement.
The second stage in the procurement process will be a formal invitation to Participate in Dialogue (ITPD) to shortlisted bidders. I expect that my Department will move to this stage in the next month. The third stage of the procurement process involves the issue of final tender documentation which follows the dialogue process. Following the submission of final tenders by bidders, a winning bidder(s) will be selected for the contract which will comprise one or two lots as set out in the Intervention Strategy document. The Department will then enter into formal contract negotiations with the winning bidder(s). It is expected that a contract will be awarded by June 2017.
Engagement with industry stakeholders as part of the pre-procurement and consultations  has indicated that  the rollout in the State Intervention area  could be achieved within 3-5 years of the contract award.   Rollout will commence once the contract is in place. Based on industry consultations, it is expected that 85% of all premises in Ireland will have access to high speed broadband within 2 years after rollout commences, with 100% being connected within 5 years or sooner.
As part of the competitive process, the Department will engage with winning bidder(s) on the best rollout strategy, in order to target areas of particularly poor service, business needs and / or high demand. This will need to be balanced with the most efficient network rollout plan. A prioritisation programme will be put in place in this regard, in consultation with the Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht.
I am in discussion at present with Minister Heather Humphreys on the detailed arrangements to give effect to commitments in the Programme for a Partnership Government regarding her Department’s role in relation to the rollout phase of the National Broadband Plan. It is envisaged that the role will include leading on the establishment of county or regional broadband taskforces and working with local authorities, Local Enterprise Offices, LEADER Groups and other relevant agencies to help accelerate the broadband network build in rural Ireland, once a contract(s) has been awarded.

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