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FactCheck: Will 180,000 homes and businesses begin 2020 without high-speed broadband?

Éamon Ó Cuív TD made the claim last week.

fact

THE SLOW ROLLOUT of broadband is surely one of the most frustrating issues facing people in some rural areas.

Politicians are constantly reassuring rural dwellers that high-speed internet is coming, but such reassurance is of little use to people who are trying to run a business with dial-up speeds.

The issue was a hot topic at the National Ploughing Championships in Offaly last week and new figures about how the work is progressing have raised fresh concerns about the length of time people will be waiting.

What was said

Among those who’ve been critical of the government’s efforts is Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív.

The Fianna Fáil deputy said on 12 September that the department is “stalling on the issue” and claimed that some people in rural areas still won’t have “this basic service” by the end of 2020.

Specifically, Ó Cuiv said that “180,000 homes and businesses will start new decade without high-speed broadband”.

We decided to take a look at that particular claim and asked the deputy where that figure came from.

In response, he said the figures were given to him in a briefing with the minister who said that 10% of the proposed connections won’t be completed by the end of 2020.

The facts

File Photo A new study has found that broadband speeds can be up to 36 times slower in some parts of the country compared to others. The data also found that the county with the slowest connectivity on average is Longford while the county with the fastest A broadband engineer searches for a wireless signal from a rooftop in Athgarvan, Co Kildare. Source: RollingNews.ie

The first thing that we need to clarify is what exactly constitutes “high-speed broadband”.

Legally speaking, high-speed broadband is a connection that has a download speed of at least 30 megabits per second (mb/s) .

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) has insisted that this is the minimum standard, however.

Instead, it wants connections at speeds of 100-150 mb/s to be possible in many areas so that the service is up-to-date for 20 years.

But for the sake of the defining high-speed broadband, 30 mb/s is the figure being targeted.

To look at the provision of broadband, it’s important to first point out that the National Broadband Plan (NBP)  envisages this being achieved in a number of ways.

The first is through commercial telecommunications companies investing in the infrastructure. The department estimates the sector has invested €2.5 billion in the sector since 2012.

Most centres of population have benefitted from this investment but it is not a catch-all.

In the areas where it is deemed not commercially viable for telecoms companies to invest, the State is committed to intervening with investment.

This intervention will be in the form of the State contributing a subvention for operators to go in and provide high-speed connections.

The department’s high-speed broadband map displays where these approaches will be required.

In the map below, dark blue represents areas where broadband is being provided commercially or where companies say they will provide it.

Light-blue represents areas where they have agreed to do so, such as a current commitment by Eir to reach 300,000 premises in rural areas.

Finally, amber represents areas where the State will have to intervene.

bb map The High Speed Broadband Map Source: dccae.gov.ie

(Note: It is perhaps worth pointing out that not every inch of grass in amber above needs to be connected, only dwellings in those areas. Some places have no such dwellings) 

Speaking last week at the National Ploughing Championships, NBP director Fergal Mulligan and Patrick Neary of the DCCAE provided an update as to how the NBP is progressing.

They outlined that 840,000 premises were targeted as being in need of high-speed connections.

Eir has committed to rolling out broadband to 300,000 of those, leaving 540,000 that need State help.

Eir’s work on this began late last year and by the end of this month they will have passed the 100,000 mark. The plan is that 300,000 will be reached by the end of next year.

That leaves 540,000 premises that need to be covered with the help of the State subvention.

This project has been hit by repeated delays, having being first mooted back in 2012.

PastedImage-77564 Source: dccae.gov.ie

It was revealed on Monday this week, the closing date for interested parties to submit their procurement bid, that just two bidders are now in the running. These are Eir and Enet.

An ESB-Vodafone joint venture, Siro, announced that it would not be competing for the tender, saying that it could not “develop a competitive business case to justify continued participation”.

Once the winning bid has been selected next year, the department says it will “move on as quickly as possible” to the next phase and hopes that “the majority” of the work will be completed by 2020.

“We do expect the majority of this to be done by 2020, that was always the ambition, that was always the plan for 2020. When we hear people talking about 2022 or 2024 it’s very misleading statistic because the majority of premises will be done by 2020,” Mulligan said at the briefing.

In terms of numbers, there are currently about 1.5 million premises with high-speed broadband, representing about 67% of the national total. Figures from the DCCAE record about 2.3 million premises across the 26 counties.

Patrick Neary said he expects 91% of these premises to have high-speed broadband by 2020.

Verdict 

Going by those figures, that remaining 9% would constitute about 201,00 premises, slightly more in fact than the figures provided to Ó Cuiv.

So by the department’s own figures, over 200,000 homes and business will not have high-speed broadband by the start of the upcoming decade.

It could of course be more or less depending on how the rollout continues, but the initial claim is correct as per DCCAE’s figures and we rate the claim as TRUE.

  • Tune in to TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck slot on The Pat Kenny Show tonight, Wednesday, 20 September, on TV3 at 10pm for more on the claims, facts and figures around life in rural Ireland.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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