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Action 48 in Ireland flag Ireland

Use structural funds to finance the roll-out of high-speed networks

Indicator Status Evidence
Are you using structural funds to finance the roll-out of high-speed networks? Yes The following Projects: - National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is a targeted State broadband intervention which is co-funded under the ERDF. The Scheme was launched in 2008 following State Aids clearance by the EU Commission and was designed to make a BASIC, scaleable broadband service available to fixed residences in certain designated rural areas of the country. As such, it does not offer high-speed broadband services. 100Mbs Schools Broadband and the Metropolitan Area Networks are EU funded. At present the full allocation of ERDF funds allocated to these Projects will be achieved by 2012 / 2013 under the Operational Programme 2007-2013.
Will you achieve full allocation of your ERDF funds allocated to broadband deployment by 2013? Yes The State’s contribution to the NBS service provider, Hutchison 3G Ireland Ltd (trading as “3”) amounts to €79.8m. Payment of this subsidy is subject to certification of the achievement of certain contractual milestones and is spread over the period December 2008 to August 2014. The full amount of the subsidy is eligible for co-funding under the current ERDF Operational Programme. 100Mbs Schools Broadband and the Metropolitan Area Networks are EU funded. At present the full allocation of ERDF funds allocated to these Projects will be achieved by 2012 / 2013 under the Operational Programme 2007-2013.

Best Practice Case

IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NATIONAL BROADBAND SCHEME IN RURAL AREAS OF IRELAND Introduction The National Broadband Scheme (NBS) was a policy response to persistent representations to successive Government Ministers regarding the poor availability of broadband in large parts of Ireland, particularly in rural areas. In acknowledgement of this market failure, the State took the decision, following State Aids clearance from the EU Commission, to intervene in the market to ensure the provision of a basic broadband service to certain targeted rural parts of the country. The NBS has delivered basic broadband connectivity to homes and businesses located in an area covering almost one third of the Electoral Divisions (1,028) of the country on time and within budget. In so doing, the overarching policy objectives of this State-sponsored market intervention, namely widening the availability of broadband, creating greater equality and removing the socio-economic disadvantages caused by a lack of broadband services, have been achieved. NBS Mapping Exercise As a fundamental part of the planning and design of the NBS intervention, an extremely comprehensive mapping process was carried out by the Department in order to protect the interests of the existing broadband providers and to satisfy the state aid requirements. The terms used to determine the areas to be covered under the NBS were based on the levels of the existing combined broadband coverage in relevant EDs at the time of the detailed mapping exercise in 2008. Multiple engagements and consultations were carried out with broadband operators and all concerns were addressed with the operators at the time of the sign-off of the mapping process. Given that “EDs”, had previously been created as a geographical administrative unit, this was decided as being a suitable administrative method to map and implement the NBS. The specific EDs to be included in the NBS were determined by the Department based on the levels of the broadband coverage in each relevant EDs at that time. The approach taken was a pragmatic one which aimed to maximise the number of unserved buildings (while minimising served buildings) that would be covered by the Scheme. In accepting an ED into the NBS Scheme, each ED was checked three times to ensure consistency. NBS Procurement Process Following the conclusion of a technology neutral procurement process, the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources entered into a contract with Hutchison 3G Ireland Ltd (trading as “3”) in late December 2008 for the delivery of the NBS. This competitive dialogue procurement process was conducted in line with best practice. Under the terms of the NBS contract, the winning service provider was required to establish the infrastructure, made available and where requested, provide the minimum specification retail and wholesale broadband service to fixed residences and businesses that are located within the designated Electoral Divisions (“ED”) of the NBS Coverage Area. In Ireland, Electoral Divisions comprise of the smallest administrative areas in the country used for census and election purposes and were chosen as a geographic boundary identifier for the NBS. The mobile wireless technology and network design deployed by “3” was assessed and its coverage plots independently modelled by the bid evaluation team composed of National Regulatory Authority, the Department and independent technical advisers. It was concluded that the network as proposed by 3 was capable of delivering the minimum specification required for the NBS in all areas of the NBS. NBS Network Rollout “3” extended its network into rural areas and progressively established the NBS infrastructure over a 22 month period. “3” delivered a challenging rollout programme and constructed some 390 NBS sites so as to provide the guaranteed broadband service levels in the NBS areas. The deployed mobile wireless network has been designed and optimised to deliver broadband to specified fixed locations and as such has been configured as a fixed broadband solution. Under the terms of the NBS contract, all EDs were designated as Enabled within the contractual deadlines by the Department, signifying that the NBS Service Provider “3” had complied with the specified contractual criteria, including the provision of the minimum specification broadband service to 100% of the fixed businesses and residences within each of the NBS EDs. As foreseen in the NBS contract, “3” may, for technical reasons associated with the location of the premises, deploy a satellite solution in a limited number of cases. The coverage verification exercise which was carried out by the Department’s technical consultants as part of the formal enablement process, is complemented by the ongoing monthly measurement of coverage within the NBS EDs to ensure that the minimum specified service is being provided. In keeping with State Aid clearance for the Scheme, the NBS service is an affordable, scaleable product. It currently offers minimum speeds of 1.6Mbps download and 1.2Mbps upload subject to a maximum contention ratio, with latency of 100ms and a data allowance of 25GB. Following the contractual upgrade to the NBS service in October next, these specifications will increase to minimum speeds of 2.3Mbps download and 1.4Mbps upload subject to a maximum contention ratio, with latency of 100ms and a data allowance of 40GB. At an EU level, the combination of private investment and State interventions in broadband provision, such as the NBS, allows Ireland to meet the EU Commission’s “Digital Agenda for Europe” target of having a basic broadband service available to all areas by 2013. While the NBS itself offers a basic product the network built under the NBS can facilitate the future delivery of higher speed broadband to rural parts of the country. Ongoing Monitoring of NBS Coverage and Services The 68 month NBS contract with “3” will continue until August 2014. During this time, the Department will continue to carefully manage the contract to ensure that “3” complies with all of its obligations in respect of the Scheme. The NBS contract guarantees service levels and imposes a service credit regime on “3” with financial consequences in the event that minimum specification service levels are not met. Quality control measures are in place and ongoing monitoring by the DCENR takes place. Performance delivery data, which is submitted on a monthly basis or as required, is critically analysed by the Department, with the assistance of its independent technical consultants. Performance of the infrastructure, service availability, service delivery and customer experience as well as overall compliance with its contractual obligations by 3 is actively monitored. Upgrades of the network and its capacity are triggered at contractually agreed levels of traffic to ensure that the quality of the broadband service is maintained. “3” carry out drive-testing in 20% of EDs (200 or so EDs) every month as well as static testing at 90 individual points to confirm that the NBS network is performing at or above the minimum specification service levels as set out in the NBS contract. To date, over a million measurements have been taken and have been found to be consistent with the corresponding predicted values. The contract also provides for independent monitoring and audit at any stage during the contract with a view to verifying that the services are being provided in accordance with the contract. The DCENR conducts its own field tests of the service levels received at a customer’s premises. Independent customer satisfaction surveys are carried out bi-annually.

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