As Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development I am Co-Chair of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce which held its most recenty quarterly meeting this week.
The Taskforce, which is also chaired by Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten TD, includes representatives from across Government departments, local government, State agencies and the telecoms industry.
At the meeting the Taskforce finalised its annual report for 2017 and formally agreed its work plan for 2018.
Significant progress has been made by the Taskforce’s stakeholders during its first year in operation. Of the 40 actions outlined for delivery in 2017 I am pleased to note that 30 have been completed or substantially completed with work ongoing on the remaining actions which will be carried into the new work plan for completion this year.
In terms of the actions under the remit of my Department, the Department of Rural and Community Development we will continue to fund broadband officers at each local authority as the officers are ensuring a much greater level and consistency in engagement with telecoms operations.
My Department has facilitated the raising of problems and issues through the holding of bi-monthly meetings of the Northern and Southern Broadband Regional Action Groups and is also working with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment to identify coverage blackspots and corresponding solutions.
The Taskforce stakeholders are also working on other actions including:
- legislation to ensure that new buildings are broadband enabled,
- the updating of planning guidelines relating to the upgrading of telecoms infrastructure,
- the creation of a comprehensive mobile coverage map,
- the testing of handsets and devices to determine which work best in certain conditions,
- the review of the pricing and connection practices regarding the Metropolitan Area Networks.
I look forward to the launch of the 2018 work plan shortly and to continuing to work with stakeholders to improve mobile phone and broadband services across the country.