Ireland to tap EU €9bn telecoms fund to get super-fast broadband

24 Oct 2011

EU Commission delegates have met with the Irish Government and members of the Next Generation Taskforce to seek funding from the EU’s €40bn Connecting Europe infrastructure budget to invest in ultra-fast broadband.

More than €9bn of the €40bn Connecting Europe framework will be available for telecoms projects.

The Connecting Europe Facility proposes a package within the EU’s Multi-Annual Financial Framework Budget 2014-2020 of €40bn to secure greater investment in energy, transport and ICT projects.

Ending the isolation of economic islands

Ireland’s Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD, along with members of the Next Generation Taskforce attended a special briefing on future EU/European Investment Bank funding initiatives as part of the EU Commission’s Going Local II series of visits to member states.

This year’s visit focused on the progress Ireland has made in meeting targets under the Digital Agenda, as well as identifying challenges for the future.

Anthony Whelan, head of cabinet to Europe’s Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes, led the delegation.

“The proposals from the European Commission will provide the impetus to complete the Internal Market in both energy and communications,” Rabbitte explained.

“Under this facility, a budget of €9.2bn is available for projects aimed at ensuring that every European will have access to fast and ultra-fast broadband by 2020. The proposed funding is designed to catalyse and complement private investment in the roll out of broadband and to stimulate the roll out of a digital service infrastructure.

“This is a very welcome development for Ireland at a time when industry and Government are working together, through the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce, to design a road map to accelerate the roll out of high-speed broadband.”

Progress in rolling out high-speed broadband

Rabbitte outlined the work being done across a number of Government departments in meeting the targets under the Digital Agenda and the good progress Ireland has made to date and highlighted, in particular, how a first milestone of basic broadband service for all subscribers will be met well in advance of the target date of 2013.

“Of course, this in itself creates a challenge in how we ensure widespread digital engagement, how we promote the use of broadband by everyone in society,” Rabbitte added.

He noted the delegation had earlier in the day met with groups from the business world and the community and voluntary sector who are involved in digital inclusion initiatives at an event hosted by Google.

This visit focused on three key elements of his department’s e-Inclusion policy – promoting citizen engagement, getting more small businesses online and introducing technology to charity organisations to improve efficiencies, customer service and reporting.

“NewERA commits the Government to co-invest with the private sector in the roll out of high-speed broadband throughout the country. Ireland will meet the EU target of having a basic broadband service available to all citizens by 2013. The challenge now is to accelerate the roll out of high-speed broadband.”

The NGBT is working towards accelerating the roll out of high-speed broadband and today’s meeting with the commission is helping to provide more clarity on the range of EU funding supports available to assist telecommunications companies in making the requisite investments” said Minister of State Fergus O’Dowd.

Following the meeting with the taskforce, the delegation visited the Exemplar test bed, a research facility in Park West, Dublin, where they were given a demonstration of the technology being developed which has the capacity to transfer data more efficiently across fibre networks with a guaranteed quality of service.

“The visit allowed the delegation to view first hand the innovations being developed by an Irish company, which, if successful would put Ireland firmly on the global technology map, as a leader in dynamic optical communications networks,” Rabbitte said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years