Bill to enable ESB broadband service
Rabbitte says Bill made significant change to existing set-up
Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte: the Bill is “a positive step in facilitating the accelerated roll-out of high-speed broadband infrastructure in this country”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times
ESB will be enabled to set up a stand-alone commercial operation to provide high-speed broadband and electronic communications under legislation introduced by Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte.
He told the Dáil last night the ESB (Electronic Communications Networks) Bill set out an “explicit legal basis” for the power company to “leverage its extensive and robust distribution infrastructure to provide high-speed broadband infrastructure in Ireland”.
He said the Bill would allow the semi-State to do this where it “identifies a commercial basis for doing so, either alone or with any other company”.
The ESB already operates a fibre network across its electricity transmission system, to assist the management of the electricity network. “Over time additional capacity on that network has been sold to operators in the electronic communications market.”
The Bill made a significant change to the existing set-up: “It would be a stand-alone business with no direct connection to the management of the electricity network and it may be developed by way of a joint venture.”
The Minister said the Bill enabled the use of the ESB’s infrastructure “and that it is not specific to any given project”.
It was his understanding that “the company had sought a joint venture partner with a view to providing such services on a wholesale-only basis. I am advised that this in turn could facilitate the delivery of high-speed broadband services by retail telecommunications operators in the areas served.”
Mr Rabbitte said “this Bill is a positive step in facilitating the accelerated roll-out of high-speed broadband infrastructure in this country” and was “in the spirit of the National Broadband Plan”.
Fianna Fáil communications spokesman Michael Moynihan welcomed the Bill in principle. He said the Government’s plan for full broadband coverage in Ireland by the end of 2012 may have technically been met in last year “but the quality of the service is often so bad that it simply cannot be used”.