Speaking following a meeting between EU Commission delegates and the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce, the Minister for Communications Mr. Pat Rabbitte, T.D. welcomed a special briefing, on future EU/European Investment Bank funding initiatives to the members of the Task Force, noting that the briefing was very timely given the announcement last week of proposals from the European Commission on guidelines for the implementation of European energy and communications infrastructure priorities. The Connecting Europe Facility proposes a package, within the EU’s Multi-Annual Financial Framework Budget 2014-2020, of €40 billion to secure greater investment in energy, transport and ICT projects that will bring greater interconnectivity across Europe and provide better access to the Internal Market. One of the main purposes of the package of proposals is to end the isolation of certain ‘economic islands’. €9 billion of the facility is to be allocated to telecommunications projects.
The Minister added, “The proposals from the European Commission will provide the impetus to complete the Internal Market in both energy and communications. Under this facility a budget of €9.2 billion is available for projects aimed at ensuring that every European will have access to fast and ultra fast broadband by 2020. The proposed funding is designed to catalyze and complement private investment in the roll out of broadband and to stimulate the roll out of a digital service infrastructure. This is a very welcome development for Ireland at a time when industry and Government are working together, through the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce, to design a roadmap to accelerate the roll out of high speed broadband.”
The meeting with the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce was organized as part of the EU Commission’s Going Local II series of visits to Member States. The Going Local visits are an annual event, with this year’s visit focused on the progress Ireland has made in meeting targets under the Digital Agenda as well as identifying challenges for the future and stimulating actions and commitments. The delegation was led by Mr. Anthony Whelan, Head of Cabinet to Ms. Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Digital Agenda.
Minister Rabbitte outlined the work being done across a number of Government Departments in meeting the targets under the Digital Agenda and the good progress Ireland has made to date and highlighted in particular how a first milestone of basic broadband service for all subscribers will be met well in advance of the target date of 2013. ‘Of course, this in itself creates a challenge in how we ensure widespread digital engagement, how we promote the use of broadband by everyone in society, the Minister added.
He noted that the delegation had earlier in the day met with groups from the business world and the community & voluntary sector who are involved in digital inclusion initiatives at an event hosted by Google. This visit focused on three key elements of his Department’s e-Inclusion policy - promoting citizen engagement; getting more small businesses on-line and introducing technology to charity organisations to improve efficiencies, customer service and reporting.
“NewERA commits the Government to co-invest with the Private Sector in the rollout of high speed broadband throughout the country. Ireland will meet the EU target of having a basic broadband service available to all citizens by 2013. The challenge now is to accelerate the roll out of high speed broadband.”
The NGBT is working towards accelerating the roll out of high speed broadband and today's meeting with the commission is helping to provide more clarity on the range of EU funding supports available to assist telecommunications companies in making the requisite investments” said Minister of State O Dowd
Following the meeting with the taskforce, the delegation visited the Exemplar test bed, a research facility located in Parkwest where they were given a demonstration of the technology being developed which has the capacity to transfer data more efficiently across fibre networks with a guaranteed quality of service. The Minister said that the visit ‘allowed the delegation to view first hand the innovations being developed by an Irish company which if successful would put Ireland firmly on the global technology map, as a leader in dynamic optical communications networks.’