Profile of broadband firms to be published

The public will be able to access a website to see which company has the best coverage in their area as part of broadband plans being introduced by the Government.

A broadband officer is also to be appointed in each local authority and the introduction of 4G services will be accelerated throughout the country the Government has announced.

The Cabinet has signed off on a raft of recommendations around rural broadband, 20 of which will be implemented immediately.

An online broadband map will be developed by ComReg to allow people choose the company which has the best coverage in the area where they work and live. The map is expected to be published in 2018.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten says more information will be provided to consumers “where people can actually see what coverage is available”.

The report of the Mobile Phone and Broadband task-force has also recommended that development levies for telecommunications infrastructure — which are a requirement under planning legislation — cease from early 2017.

Already 26 out of the 31 local authorities have ceased applying these charges. Operators will meet Government officials every 90 days. “We also want feedback on what is working and what is not working,” Mr Naughten said.

Ministers for Rural Affairs Heather Humphreys confirmed the appointment of a dedicated person in every local authority to deal with broadband issues. These appointments are being funded by her department.

“That’s something that we have working with local authorities on, in terms of preparing for the roll-out of the national broadband plan. We are working with local authorities to prepare their own digital strategy in their own country and we have regional action groups we are working with,” she said.

Mr Naughten said in one instance a company had contacted with the local authority and they had a “shovel in the ground” within 14 days of the initial contact.

“That’s the scale of impact this is making in practical terms,” he said. He said having one point of contact in each authority would speed up the process as a numerous divisions had been up until now working on different aspects of broadband provision.

Meanwhile, an ESRI study on the cost of broadband quality found the price being charged to consumers for higher quality broadband services has been falling since 2007 and is now very low. The research found by 2013 higher speed services were only slightly more expensive than plans offering lower speeds.

Bundled services that use telephone lines to deliver broadband along with voice calls or TV service also cost less than they did in previous years.

“The falling price premium on download speed suggests it may be difficult to get consumers in less well served areas (such as many rural areas) to contribute much towards the extra cost of installing high speed networks,” the report found.

Labour spokesperson on Communications, Seán Sherlock was critical that the plan has been split between two departments “creating an avoidable duplication of efforts”.

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