Ministers Naughten and Kyne publish annual review of the Mobile Phone & Broadband Taskforce

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten, T.D., and Minister for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development Seán Kyne, T.D., today (21 February) published the 2017 Annual Review on the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce report.

The Annual Review outlines progress made in 2017 on actions aimed at accelerating the delivery of telecommunications infrastructure. Of the 40 actions identified by the Taskforce, 29 actions have been completed. Work remaining to be completed on 11 actions which will carry into the 2018 work programme. A further 23 new measures have been identified for delivery in 2018.

Commenting on the report, Minister Naughten said: “Our focus is on implementing real change to facilitate increased coverage and service delivery across Ireland by eliminating telecommunications infrastructure deficits.”

In relation to developments in 2017, Minister Naughten added “The engagement between the diverse range of stakeholders involved in the deployment of vital telecommunications infrastructure is one of the most critical contributory factors in getting us to a point where we can achieve that transformation. My Department has worked closely with industry, ComReg and other stakeholders on a range of actions. This includes the updating of exempted development regulations relating to the deployment of telecoms infrastructure, providing consumers with information so that they are better informed when purchasing broadband services and mobile phone handsets or services;
and identifying practical solutions to improve mobile phone coverage which will further inform future policy to address critical blackspot locations.”

Speaking at the launch of the report Minister Kyne said: “The Department of Rural and Community Development will continue to provide vital funding support for a Broadband Officer in each local authority. The Officers are ensuring a much greater level of consistency in engagement with telecoms operators. My Department is working closely with local authorities and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, through the Northern and Southern Broadband Regional Action Groups, to identify of tangible solutions to telecommunication deficits such as blackspots”.

Some key measures which have been progressed during 2017 include:

• The establishment of the Broadband Officer role is impacting significantly on increased levels of communications with the telecoms industry on identifying and addressing barriers to the rollout of telecoms infrastructure.

• A mobile phone blackspots “mapping exercise” is bringing together local authorities and mobile phone operators to identify practical solutions to improve mobile phone coverage and quality throughout the country. In addition, the establishment of a Blackspots Focus Group will identify specific categories of locations where high quality mobile coverage should be available, and inform future policy to address critical blackspot locations.

• Transport Infrastructure Ireland has carried out a significant body of work in increasing ducting provision on the national roadway infrastructure, which will enable telecoms operators to further deploy infrastructure to deliver services.

• The positive level of engagement between Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the telecoms industry has resulted in the identification of a number of suitable sites for the accommodation of telecoms mast infrastructure which will lead to improved coverage along the motorway network.

• The standardising of Road Opening Charges will provide clarity to the telecoms industry on consistent charges applied by local authorities for works and will assist in investment planning.

• Recently established structures by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport such as the Monitoring Committee and Stakeholder (User) Forum are facilitating a high level of discussion and engagement between key stakeholders and assisting in identifying solutions to emerging issues around road openings.

• The revision of the Exempted Developments Regulations by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government will lead to enhanced delivery of telecoms services, and ensure the regulations remain valid and stay abreast of network developments and consumer demand.

• Consistency across local authorities regarding the standardising of Development Contributions will result in greater clarity for telecoms operators in that no charges are being applied for the placement of telecoms infrastructure.

• A National Stakeholder Forum was held in October brought together key stakeholders to openly discuss issues impacting on the rollout of telecommunications infrastructure, and to suggest new recommendations for the Taskforce Implementation Group to adopt in order to accelerate the provision of improved services to consumers.

• The Increased availability of consumer information by ComReg is enabling consumers to make informed choices on the right product and services to meet their needs. In addition a greater level of information on consumer rights is informing consumers of their right to complain about inadequate services and procedures to follow in making such a complaint.

The Ministers acknowledged the important contribution of all Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce Implementation Group action holders in progressing 2017 measures, and look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders during 2018 to improve mobile phone and broadband services across the country.

ENDS

 

Notes to Editor:

About the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce
The Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce (the ‘Taskforce’) was established in July 2016, arising from a commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government, to deliver on the actions set out in the National Broadband Plan. The Taskforce comprised representatives of relevant Government Departments and agencies, business and consumer interests and rural interests. ComReg sat on the Taskforce in an observer capacity. The objective of the Taskforce was to identify solutions which can be implemented in the short, medium and long term to alleviate telecommunications deficits, particularly in rural Ireland, prior to full build and rollout of the network planned under the National Broadband Plan State intervention. The report of the Taskforce, which was published in December 2016, contained a series of recommendations and 40 action points for delivery to improve mobile phone and broadband access.

Established in the first quarter of 2017, to oversee and drive the actions to support the recommendations made in the Taskforce report, an Implementation Group, co-chaired by Minister Denis Naughten and Minister of State Seán Kyne, meets quarterly. Progress Reports on implementation of the actions are published on a quarterly basis.

The Taskforce Report, Implementation Programme and Quarterly Progress Reports can be accessed via: http://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/communications/topics/Broadband/mobile-phone-and-broadband-taskforce/Pages/Mobile-Phone-and-Broadband-Taskforce.aspx

About the National Broadband Plan
The National Broadband Plan (NBP) is a Government policy initiative which aims to deliver high speed broadband (minimum 30 megabits per second) to every citizen and business in Ireland, in all premises, regardless of location. This will be achieved through a combination of accelerated commercial investment by telecoms operators, and a State intervention to deliver access to high speed broadband to those parts of the country where there is no certainty that the commercial sector will invest. The procurement process to engage a company to build, operate and maintain a high speed network in those areas is now at an advanced stage. The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. Close to 7 out of 10 of the 2.3 million premises in Ireland now have access to high speed broadband. Since this Government came into office almost 400,000 additional premises have access to a high speed broadband service. Within a year, that number will rise to nearly 8 out of 10 premises and by 2020 9 out of 10 premises or 90% of premises will have access to a high speed broadband connection.

The National Broadband Plan intervention map available via www.broadband.gov.ie allows the public to check if their premises are in a commercial or State Intervention Area.

Further information on the NBP is available at: http://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/communications/topics/Broadband/national-broadband-plan/Pages/National-Broadband-Plan.aspx