Rural Broadband Scheme to connect the last 1pc

9 May 2011

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte TD has unveiled the much-anticipated Rural Broadband Scheme that aims to identify the remaining individual parts of Ireland without broadband coverage. The scheme aims to serve the last 1pc not covered by any services.

The scheme will be carried out in co-operation with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food under the Rural Development Programme co-funded by the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development.

The scheme aims to ensure that universal broadband access is provided in Ireland by the end of 2012.

“The combination of private and public investment in telecommunications infrastructure has meant over 99pc broadband coverage for the whole country,” said Rabbitte.

“I am now launching this scheme to identify the remaining small percentage of premises that have not been able to procure a broadband service and to provide broadband to such premises which cannot be served by the existing market. My department will be accepting applications for a three-month period starting now, so there will be ample opportunity for people to come forward with details of premises that cannot obtain a service.”

The last 1pc

While the completion of the Government’s National Broadband Scheme (NBS) with 3 and BT means that broadband services are now available throughout the country via mobile broadband and satellite, there are remaining unserved rural premises which could not be included in the NBS or which are difficult to reach for mainly technical reasons.

It is understood that the scheme was ready to go since February.

The Rural Broadband Scheme is designed to identify those premises through a public application process and, ultimately, to bring a broadband service to them either through existing private sector service providers or through a service provider procured by Government.

The scheme aims to identify the premises that cannot currently obtain a service and once all of these premises have been identified, to ascertain whether existing telecommunications operators can provide a service directly to these premises. If an existing service provider cannot be identified, the department will seek to procure such a service.

The Department of Communications said that a combination of private and public sector programmes in the broadband market will ensure that Ireland reaches the EU target of ubiquitous basic broadband access ahead of the 2013 deadline.

Full details of the Rural Broadband Scheme are available on the department’s website.

The scheme will operate in a number of phases, with applications being accepted over an initial three-month period. This will be followed by a process of verification with internet service providers to assess whether any of the applicants can be served by the market without Government intervention. Some applicants may obtain a service during this phase of the scheme and it is expected the process will take about six months.

The Ts & Cs of Rural Broadband Scheme

The department will accept applications from people who:

  • Live outside the areas covered by the National Broadband Scheme
  • Live in an area defined as “rural” under the Rural Development Programme
  • Confirm they are unable to obtain a broadband service from suppliers in their locality
  • Confirm their willingness to allow their details to be passed to existing licensed internet service providers to assess whether a service can be offered to them.

The department will be accepting applications between Monday, 9 May and Friday, 29 July.

The department intends to conduct a procurement process under EU rules to select an internet service provider for the scheme. The department expects to have a service provider appointed in the second half of 2011.

In the rollout phase of the scheme, the provider selected in the procurement process will offer a service to each “unserved” customer identified in the verification process. An infrastructure subsidy will be paid to the service provider in respect of each applicant who is served in this phase of the scheme.

The department says that while the details of the service and the level of infrastructure subsidy will be established in the procurement process, it is intended that the service provided under the scheme will be at least comparable to the service provided under the NBS. Rollout of the service under the scheme will be completed by the end of 2012 to ensure the drawdown of EU funding for the scheme.

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