As Co-Chair of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce, representing the Department of Rural and Community Development, I am very encouraged by the progress being made by the Taskforce in improving mobile phone coverage and broadband access for households, businesses and communities.
A commitment in the Programme for Partnership Government, the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce was established in July 2016 and comprises representatives from Government, including the Department of Rural and Community Development, Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, local government including the Local Government Management Agency and City and County Managers Association, ComReg and Transport Infrastructure Ireland.
The Taskforce is co-chaired by Denis Naughton TD, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment and I as Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development.
The Taskforce Report was published in December 2016 and sets out 40 recommendations and actions to tackle barriers to mobile phone coverage and broadband access. The Taskforce holds quarterly meetings the most recent of which was held on Wednesday, 22nd November.
With the stakeholders working together, the Taskforce has progressed all of the actions earmarked for quarter three of 2017. These include:
- A review of the Guidelines for Managing Openings in Public Roads – vital for the introduction or improvement of telecoms infrastructure
- The introduction/expansion of the MapRoad Roadworks Licensing System as the single national centralised road opening licensing system
- Provision of new information for consumers on the services available and also on how to effectively report problems or make complaints
- The use of mobile phone repeaters to help address indoor coverage and introducing a licensing system for their use
- The amendment of planning legislation to exempt certain telecoms infrastructure from planning – particularly when it involves upgrading existing infrastructure
- A review to identify mobile phone coverage blackspots and possible solutions .
My department, the Department of Rural and Community Development, has progressed the actions under its remit including the review of State-owned property to ensure reasonable access for telecoms infrastructure and the funding, of €1 million per year, of Local Broadband and Telecoms Officers at every city and county council in the country. The Local Broadband and Telecoms Offices are the local point of contact for telecoms infrastructure development and are the liaison with telecoms operators on coverage and rollout issues.
As the first full year of the Taskforce’s activity approaches, the Taskforce Implementation Group is now reviewing the progress achieved to date for the first annual report. The Group is also working on the Taskforce’s updated work programme for 2018.