As many as 80,000 homes could have been left off maps used by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) to connect people to the new €2.9 billion roll out of fibre broadband.
Former minister for communications Denis Naughten, who has advised home and business owners, predominantly in rural Ireland, to check the colour coding of their premises on NBI maps.
The maps use two colour codes, dividing the State into blue and amber areas. Blue areas are parts of the country where commercial operators are already providing high-speed broadband or have indicated future plans to do so.
Amber areas are those areas where homes and businesses will be offered fibre, under the State intervention scheme.
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The Department of Communications defines high-speed broadband as a connection with minimum speeds of 30Mbps download and six megabits per second upload.
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“If people, particularly in towns and villages, are not getting at least 30Mbps consistently then they need to make sure that they are amber on the national broadband map, so that they can be provided with a high-speed broadband connection,” Mr Naughten said.
Mr Naughten, an Independent TD for Roscommon–Galway, demonstrated a number of anomalies in the maps, where premises should have been in the amber intervention area. “There are about 80,000 homes which are in blue but not getting an adequate service which fall into this category,” he said.
He instanced a number of areas in rural Ireland where some pockets of homes were left out of the intervention area, seemingly because of errors on the maps.
The department said the reason high-speed fibre broadband cannot be offered to those whose connection was already offering greater speeds than 30Mbps was to do with State aid. “There is no scope for intervention in the form of the NBI roll out as to do so would contravene EU state-aid rules,” it said.
A National Broadband Ireland spokesman confirmed that last year it had added some 20,000 premises to the broadband intervention, based on amendments to the maps which are provided to it by the department.
He said the company had “no authority, no legal power” to offer fibre broadband to anyone outside mapped intervention areas. He said if the department changed the maps, which it had done in the case of the 20,000 homes, the company would follow.
Mr Naughten has advised premises owners check the availability of the fibre roll out — and their colour coding — by going to the high-speed broadband map at broadband.gov.ie and enter their Eircode or address.