ESB investment of €400m in rural broadband drive

There are high hopes that ESB’s proposed entry into the broadband and communications market will improve services in rural areas. The legislation enabling ESB’s entry into this area was introduced and debated in the Dail this week.

It is reported the ESB plans to invest some €400m in a 100 per cent fibre network that would deliver broadband speeds of up to 150mbps to some 500,000 customers nationwide.

According to Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte, the legislation affords an excellent opportunity to significantly enhance the quality and availability of modern, resilient and future-proofed broadband infrastructure through the use of the ESB’s extensive electricity networks, potentially extending the reach of fibre to the home broadband connectivity in Ireland.

He commented: “It is a further important step in this country positioning itself as a front runner in tackling the broadband infrastructure deficit.

“The ESB has identified an opportunity to use its electricity distribution network to provide telecommunications services in the Irish market.”

“I understand the company has sought a joint venture partner with a view to providing such services on a wholesale only basis. I am advised that this in turn could facilitate the delivery of high-speed broadband services by retail telecommunications operators in the areas served.”

The bill debated in the Dail this week is only for the purposes of enabling the use of ESB’s infrastructure and is not specific to any given project.

However the minister expects the ESB will bring forward detailed proposals in relation to the project.

The minister highlighted: “Both I and my Government colleagues consider this to be a very welcome development and is very much in the spirit of the National Broadband Plan.

Rural TD’s particularly Fianna Fáil’s Michael Moynihan welcomed the proposal: “The entry of the ESB into this area should increase competition in the broadband and electronic communications market. I hope that will result in reduced costs and an increase of broadband coverage throughout the country.”

The plan, which commits to the delivery of high-speed broadband across the country and also specifically commits to the use of state assets to accelerate the rollout of high-speed broadband infrastructure and services, has also come in for criticism over its poor implementation.

Cork native Moynihan added: “The Government has failed to keep pace with technological advances and the expansion of the service has stalled. The Government’s plan for full broadband coverage in Ireland by the end of 2012 under its rural broadband scheme may technically have been met in 2013, but the quality of the service is often so bad that it simply cannot be used.”

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