Rabbitte announces new legislation enabling the use of ESB infrastructure for the rollout of fibre

Extensive ESB infrastructure will provide an opportunity to extend the reach of fibre in Ireland, with the potential to enhance the provision of high speed broadband and increase competition in the Irish telecommunications market

Dublin, 18 December 2013 The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Mr Pat Rabbitte T.D., announced that he will publish the ESB (Electronic Communications Networks) Bill 2013 which was approved by Government at its meeting this week. The Bill provides an explicit legal basis to enable the ESB to engage in the business of electronic communications networks and electronic communications services either itself or in conjunction with any other company. It will allow ESB to use its network infrastructure to deliver fibre services to the telecommunications market.

Making the announcement Minister Rabbitte said “I believe that the publication of this Bill is a further step in Ireland positioning itself as a front runner in tackling the broadband infrastructure deficit.

“The ESB has been considering proposals to use its electricity distribution network to provide fibre telecommunications services on a wholesale only basis and has sought a Joint Venture partner in this regard. I look forward to receiving their detailed proposals in due course.
“This is a ground breaking initiative and one which is very much in the spirit of the Government’s National Broadband Plan which specifically promotes the use of State assets to accelerate the roll out of high speed broadband infrastructure and services.”

Government is firmly committed to delivering high speed broadband across the country through a combination of commercial and State-led investment. The potential to use ESB’s considerable network to deploy fibre will contribute to the commercial deployment of broadband.

The Minister went on to say “This development comes at a critical time in the telecommunications market where industry is investing heavily in the deployment of high speed fixed and wireless broadband”

The Minister noted that in parallel with this and other industry developments work is continuing on the implementation of the National Broadband Plan. The Government is committed to a State led investment in areas where there is no case for investment by commercial companies; this intention was restated in Government’s Medium Term Economic Strategy 2014-2020 published this week. In this regard, his Department is engaged in intensive technical, financial and legal preparatory work to define the scope of the State led intervention committed to in the National Broadband Plan. A comprehensive mapping exercise of the current and anticipated investment by the commercial sector is also well advanced and engagement with industry is on-going. This exercise will identify where the market is expected to deliver high speed broadband services over the coming years and consequently the precise areas that will need to be targeted by the State led intervention.

The National Broadband Plan is a clear expression of the importance of broadband infrastructure to the achievement of Ireland’s economic and social objectives. High speed, quality and reliable broadband as an enabling infrastructure for economic and social development is becoming a critical component of a 21st century society.