Mobile phone and broadband taskforce to address rural internet issues

A promised mobile phone and broadband taskforce has been set up to address coverage deficits in rural areas and will report back with immediate solutions.

It is anticipated the taskforce will help a national plan provide broadband to 900,000 homes by 2020.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten has also introduced measures to achieve co-operation on telecommunications projects and reduce costs.

“I am confident that the taskforce will deliver on a work programme that will see immediate solutions to the broadband and mobile phone coverage deficits and alleviate some of the difficulties being felt by families, businesses and the young and elderly across rural Ireland,” said Mr Naughten.

The taskforce will examine any immediate actions that can be taken to improve broadband and phone coverage in rural areas while the national broadband plan continues.

The taskforce comprises multi-departmental groups, industry representatives, and the communications regulator.

It will report back to Government by the end of the year on ways to improve mobile reception and broadband access, as well as ways to consult with companies and the regulator on any barriers.

Mr Naughten will chair the taskforce, with members drawn from the OPW, local authorities, business and rural groups, the National Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, and several departments.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten
Communications Minister Denis Naughten

Arts and Regional Minister Heather Humphreys, also involved in the broadband plan, said: “I will be working with all of the local authorities to eliminate delay factors, such as planning and ducting, so towns and villages are broadband ready when the state contract is signed in summer 2017.”

The taskforce will work with the industry to identify and address barriers to telecoms delivery and solutions that will help speed up developments, officials said.

Meanwhile, the Government has signed into law measures to speed up co-operation on communications projects with the industry and local authorities, and which will help competition, leading to lower prices in the sector.

Arts and Regional Minister Heather Humphreys
Arts and Regional Minister Heather Humphreys

The approval by the Cabinet of an EU directive will require utility networks in sectors such as telecommunications, electricity, gas, transport, and waste water to share information about their infrastructure with providers of high-speed broadband networks and allow access to them.

Telecoms providers will also have to be given access to service ducts in apartment complexes or multi-unit developments for projects, unless there are strong reasons to deny this.

Local authorities will also have to make decisions on permits to install telecom lines below, on, or above roads, within four months or receiving all of the information required from applicants.

The communications regulator will also be appointed as a dispute settlement body if network operators cannot agree to share networks.


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