Government Convenes CEO Taskforce on High Speed Broadband Rollout

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Mr. Pat Rabbitte, TD, together with his colleague Mr. Fergus O’Dowd, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources with responsibility for NewERA, will today convene a high level task force on the roll out of high speed broadband in Ireland.

The Next Generational Broadband Taskforce (NGBT) comprises the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies currently operating in the Irish market and CEOs of some Internet Service Provider companies. Its purpose is to discuss how best to deliver the optimal policy environment and to identify a roadmap for the speedy delivery of high speed broadband across Ireland. The Minsters are also keen to accelerate private sector investment in this area of critical importance to economic and social development.

Outlining the aims of the group, Minister Rabbitte said “Delivery of high speed broadband to all parts of Ireland is an essential Government priority. It will underpin economic growth and recovery, as well as providing important dividends in terms of education, health and other social benefits. I am confident that we will see rapid progress. Industry is already investing heavily in this area in Ireland, and our aim is to accelerate this investment. We want to encourage companies to work collaboratively across the sector to maximise the roll out of Next Generation infrastructure without compromising the competition that is so vital for innovation. We also want tease out how the State can support industry delivery without cutting across their investment plans”.

The Taskforce will consider issues such as appropriate targets, investment plans, and the role of Government policy and actions in driving and facilitating investment.

Minister O’Dowd, who has responsibility in relation to the Government’s NewERA plan, said “delivery of high speed broadband throughout Ireland is a key commitment under the Government’s NewERA programme, and will contribute to maintaining jobs and economic recovery by creating the necessary infrastructure to support enterprise investment. The work of the Task force will critically inform how best to deliver on this important policy imperative”.

Both Ministers noted that under the Digital Agenda for Europe, the European Commission has set targets of 30mbps broadband to all citizens and 50% of citizens subscribing to 100mbps by 2020. It also commits to universal broadband provision by 2013. The Government funded National and Rural Broadband Schemes are already delivering on this latter objective. The Ministers emphasised that Government policy is now firmly focussed on the delivery of much faster broadband to all regions in Ireland.

A key focus of Ministers’ discussions with industry will be whether the 2020 targets can be delivered earlier, to develop an ambitious roadmap for high speed broadband in Ireland, and what measures can be collectively and individually taken to deliver on that roadmap.

It is intended that the Taskforce will conclude its work by March 2012.

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