Irish Government announces rural broadband & next-generation schemes

Irish Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has announced details of a rural broadband scheme for the country. The scheme is geared towards ensuring universal broadband access in Ireland before the end of 2012. According to the Minister, individual premises in rural areas that have been unable to obtain a broadband service will be able to avail of one on request.

The completion of the Irish Government’s National Broadband Scheme (NBS) in 2010 saw most of the country’s rural locations covered by services implemented by Hutchison Whampoa’s mobile arm, 3. The contract, granted in 2008, focused on specifically targeted areas where broadband services were deemed insufficient. Under the terms of the contract, 3 is obliged to offer services to all premises in the NBS area who seek it. In order to encourage competition in under-served areas, 3 was also required to provide wholesale access to any other authorised operator wanting to roll out services in NBS areas.

Under the new scheme, applicants in underserved areas now have three months in which to apply for connection. Where existing carriers are unable to provide a direct service, the Department of Communications has said it will seek to procure them. According to a statement from the Department, this combination of public and private sector programmes “will ensure that Ireland reaches the EU target of ubiquitous broadband access ahead of the 2013 deadline.”

In addition to announcing the scheme, the Minister also announced his intention to push ahead with discussions with the telecoms sector “with a view to establishing a roadmap for the delivery of next generation broadband.”  Under the terms of the country’s National Recovery Programme, a co-investment commitment  by  the private and commercial semi-state sectors to provide next generation broadband throughout the country has been agreed. To this end, the first formal meeting of the Next Generation Broadband Task Force will be convened “over the coming weeks,” said the Minister.

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