Saturday, July 09, 2016

National Broadband Plan Update


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“It’s a decision on the scale and significance of rural electrification in the last century” – Minister for Communications Denis Naughten TD

 High Speed Broadband one step closer as key decisions by Cabinet moves NBP procurement process into formal dialogue phase




·        Government chooses ownership model for NBP network
·        Up to 170k additional premises to be addressed as part of NBP
·        Procurement moves to next stage, with qualified bidders to be invited to participate in dialogue

Speaking after the Government meeting today, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Denis Naughten, T.D., has announced three key milestones in the delivery of the largest ever telecommunications procurement undertaken by the State.  Minister Naughten said: “Today marks an important milestone in the process of delivering high speed broadband to every citizen and premises in Ireland.  This procurement is on the scale and significance of rural electrification in the last Century.”

Ownership Decision
Following a recommendation by Minister Naughten the Government has today chosen the Commercial Stimulus Model as the optimum ownership model for the network that will be part-funded by the Exchequer under the procurement process.  The Government considered two ownership models, having narrowed the options down last December, from five models. The two models are:

a)      Commercial Stimulus (or ‘Gap Funding’) – the private sector finances, designs, builds, owns and operates the network, with contractual obligations to the Department.

b)      Full Concession – the private sector finances, designs, builds and operates the network with contractual obligations to the Department.  The asset is handed back to the State after 25 years.

Minister Naughten stressed that both Models would deliver “the same network, with the same service specifications and controls, for 25 years. In both models, the winning bidder(s) will be subject to stringent contract provisions to ensure that the network delivers quality, affordable high speed broadband to all parts of Ireland that cannot currently access services”.

The Minister said that his Department had commissioned detailed costings, “down to every individual home in the Intervention Area” and on that basis, had modelled the likely cost of each ownership model.

“While I recognise the potential long-term value in the State owning any network that is built, I am advised that under a Full Concession Model, the entire cost of the project would  be placed on the Government’s Balance Sheet, with serious implications for the available capital funding over the next five to six years.  Given that both models will deliver the same services and be governed by an almost identical contract(s), I cannot justify reducing the amount of money available to Government for other critical priorities such as Climate Change, Housing and Health, over the next six years”. The Minister stated that two models differed principally after 25 years, when the asset would either revert to the State, or to the full control of a commercial telecoms operator. “I am confident that we can put in place measures to ensure that services continue after 25 years, in the case of the Commercial Stimulus model” Minister Naughten said. In this regard, he noted that he has already raised the question of a Universal Service Obligation (USO) for High Speed Broadband, at EU level. He is also in discussion with ComReg about a form of USO in areas where commercial providers have already built high speed broadband networks, but where issues might arise with new-builds.

Mapping
Minister Naughten also announced today, his intention to change the High Speed Broadband Map published by his Department last December, to include up to 170,000 more premises in the “AMBER” area.  This is to take account of commercial telecoms investment which has not materialised and for which the Department does not have any concrete alternative investment plans from the sector.

Minister Naughten said “the NBP aims to deliver high speed broadband to every home, school and business in Ireland. This is being achieved through a combination of investment by the telecoms sector, primarily in cities and towns across Ireland, and a State-led Intervention, predominantly in rural areas, where there is no certainty that the telecoms sector will invest”.  

The Minister noted that the State intervention would deal conclusively with connectivity issues in rural Ireland and that all 757,000 premises currently in the AMBER area on the Department’s High Speed Broadband Map would ultimately have access to quality, affordable services, as a result of the current procurement process. “I have a responsibility however to ensure that nobody is left behind” Minister Naughten said. “For this reason, my Department has been closely monitoring the rollout of services by the commercial telecoms sector in the so-called “BLUE” areas on the High Speed Broadband Map”. As a result of this monitoring, and dialogue with industry, it has emerged that there are up to 170,000 premises of the 1.6m premises in the BLUE area, for which there is no certainty that services will be provided. The Minister noted that work was ongoing in the Department to identify the exact number and location of premises involved.

This work will conclude in the coming months and will be reflected in an updated High Speed Broadband Map. In the meantime, the Department will inform qualified bidders in the procurement process, that the Intervention area is likely to expand by up to 170,000 premises.

The Minister stressed that the addition of up to 170,000 premises in the Intervention Area would not in any way, hold up the procurement process, or the rollout of services, as many of the premises are likely to be on the border between existing BLUE and AMBER areas.

The Minister also encouraged members of the public to contact the Department with any queries in relation to their premises. Members of the public can access the map at broadband.gov.ie and can scroll through the map, enter their eircode, or address to find their own premises. The Department also has a dedicated mail box – broadband@dcenr.gov.ie and members of the public are encouraged to contact the Department with their eircode with any queries in relation to services in their area.

Procurement Process
The Minister also noted that the first two stages of the formal procurement process for the State Intervention is now complete. “The Pre-qualification process commenced on 22 December 2015”, Minister Naughten said. “Responses were received from 5 companies, representing 32 consortia on 31 March 2016”. These responses have been evaluated by the Department from a technical, financial and legal compliance perspective. A number of companies have now qualified to proceed to the next stage of the procurement process and all companies are being notified today”.

The next stage of the procurement process is the Invitation to Participate in Dialogue, in which qualified bidders will be invited to formally dialogue with the Department, based on detailed schedules drawn up by the Department, which give detail on the various aspects of the updated Intervention Strategy published in December 2015. The Minister noted that the ambition of the programme was to have formal contract(s) in place by June 2017, with the network build commencing as quickly as possible thereafter. The key steps in the procurement process are as follows:

·         Step 1: Publication of the Pre-qualification Questionnaire (PQQ)  - this step was launched on 22 December 2015;
·         Step 2: Five responses received to the PQQ, by the deadline of 31 March (which was extended by one month, from 29 February to 31 March at the request of bidders). These responses have been evaluated and at the end of June 2016, the qualifying bidders will be invited to commence dialogue with the Department;
·         Step 3: The commencement of detailed dialogue with qualifying bidders, in relation to technical, commercial and governance matters (Invitation to Participate in Dialogue). Commencing July 2016;
·         Step 4: Following the dialogue outlined in Step 3, bidders will be invited to submit detailed solutions for further dialogue (Invitation to Submit Detailed Solutions) ;
·         Step 4a: Bidders submit detailed solutions for evaluation;
·         Step 5: Bidders will be invited to submit final, formal tenders following dialogue;
·         Step 5a: Bidders submit formal tenders;
·         Step 6: The formal tenders submitted by qualified bidders will be evaluated;
·         Step 7: Preferred bidder or bidders are identified;
·         Step 8: A 25 year contract or contracts will be awarded  - 2017.

The timing of each stage of the procurement is dependent on a number of factors including the number of bidders and the complexities that may be encountered during the process. 

Ends




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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

National Broadband Scheme

National Broadband Plan Presentation

Rural broadband is a key issue for many of my constituents, so it was great to be briefed by Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten, on the National Broadband Plan. There are many areas in Meath; businesses, schools, and homes, that still need an adequate internet connection, so it's good to see progress being made. I will continue to work on your behalf with the Department and the Minister until everyone in Meath has the broadband connection that they're entitled to.

I have included a copy of the presentation below, which you can review. If you have any questions or queries, you can reach me at Regina.Doherty@oireachtas.ie

Click here for the National Broadband Plan Presentation

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Doherty urges eligible parents to apply for Back to School allowance

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, and Minister of State at the Department of An Taoiseach, Regina Doherty, is reminding families that the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance will be made available again this year, and urged families who are not automatically entitled to make an application before the August deadline.

Minister Doherty said “The support provided through the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance helps parents to help with the cost of the new school year. The Department of Social Protection has allocated €38.8 million for the payments this year. I would remind families, who do not automatically receive the allowance, that they can still make an application before the August deadline.

“In 2015 over 153,000 families with 281,000 children benefited from the payments. The payment rate is €100 for each child aged 4 to 11 and €200 for children aged 12 to 22.

“As in previous years, a large proportion of Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance payments will be fully automated and no application form will be required. Letters will issue in the week ending 10th June informing families of their entitlement and notifying them of the expected payment which will be made during the week ending 15th July.”

Concluding, Doherty said “Further payments will be made for applications submitted to the Department of Social Protection. Application forms will be available in Department of Social Protection offices, via the Department’s SMS form request service and by download from www.welfare.ie from 10th June 2016. Further details of the application process for the 2016 payments will be made available at a later date.

Still time to apply for carers support grant as deadline looms

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, and Minister of State at the Department of An Taoiseach, Regina Doherty, has today urged carers to apply for the support grant, if not automatically eligible, which is due to be paid at the end of this week.

The Meath East TD said “this morning the Minister for Social Protection advised that over 86,000 carers are due to receive their support grant by the end of this week. This grant is automatically paid to some carers; however, I would urge anyone eligible who has not yet made an application, to do so as soon as possible in order to as soon as possible, there is still time.

“I know many carers in Meath will welcome the full restoration of the carers grant to its previous level of €1,700, following cuts to the grant during the economic crisis, which is paid to carers who are already in receipt of schemes such as Carers Allowance, Carers Benefit and Domiciliary Care Allowance.

“Other full-time carers, who are not in receipt of these schemes, can also apply for the support grant, which was formally known as the Respite Care Grant. The grant is an annual payment available to all carers providing full-time care and attention to an older person or a child or adult with a disability, regardless of their means or PRSI contributions.”

Continuing, Doherty said “the Government is very aware of the vital service provided by carers. The Department of Social Protection provides funding to support training for carers and in the last two years, over €900,000 has been provided to 16 groups, including €300,000 to Family Carers Ireland. The estimated expenditure on the Carer’s Support Grant this year is €157.6 million.”

Concluding, Minister Doherty said “I would urge anyone who is currently working in the capacity of a carer to consider applying for this grant before the scheme closes for the year in the coming days. There is still time to make an application, and I would invite anyone in need of assistance in making their application to contact my office on 01 8257204.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Eirgrid arrogant and disrespectful

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, and Minister of State Regina Doherty, who attended the final day of the An Bord Pleanala (ABP) Oral Hearing today, said in her closing statement that Eirgrid, has behaved with what can only be described as arrogance, and with very little respect for the public, affected communities and landowners.
The Meath East TD said “this afternoon I made my final oral submission at the ABP Oral Hearing for the North South Interconnector. I joined a room full of landowners, concerned parents and business owners in contributing to the closing statements of this public consultation process.

“I can only describe the behaviour of Eirgrid, throughout this whole public consultation process as arrogant and gravely lacking in respect for the public. I noted this afternoon in my closing statement, that it is almost exactly ten years since I first attended a public meeting in Trim, organised by NEPPC, for the initial proposal for the North South Interconnector.

“I find it incredibly difficult to fathom, exactly how Eirgird, ten years later, have made so many last minute, but substantial, changes to their planning application, despite having had six years since their initial application to ABP for the interconnector.”

Continuing, Doherty said “for the second time, we have seen a planning application from Eirgrid which is inherently flawed, in the form of what one can only assume to be carefully choreographed changes to 50 access routes, which have left both members of the public, and affected landowners, completely in the dark.

“As a result, we have been left unable to engage with these changes, and I am reliably informed, that some affected landowners have not even been notified by Eirgrid as to these changes, despite Eirgrid stating otherwise.

“Eirgrid, has essentially robbed Meath landowners and communities from being able to partake in what should have been a thoroughly democratic and transparent public consultation. I also share the confusion which was voiced in the room today as to whether ABP will be adjudicating upon this planing application either with, or without, the extensive amendments to access routes presented by Eirgird.

Concluding, Doherty said “again, I echoed the striking absence of a fully costed alternative undergrounding, or partial undergrounding, of the interconnector, which, in and of itself, most are in agreement is a much needed upgrade to our critical national infrastructure. We cannot, and will not, take Eirgird on its word, that undergrounding is not feasible for long-term viability and sustainability reasons, given its behaviour of late, and particularly its CEO, Mr Slye’s admission at an Oireachtas Committee that undergrounding is technically feasible.
Pictured with Padraig O'Reilly and Amy Treacy from the NEPPC

“I would like to congratulate all of the members of the NEPPC, and indeed the many hundreds of people who have together invested a considerable amount of time in presenting both written and oral submission to the board. Without their efforts, we would not have been in a position to make such a strong and thorough submission to the Board.” 

Doherty welcomes removal of Green Bin charge

Fine Gael TD, and Minister of State, Regina Doherty, has welcomed the decision by Minister Simon Coveney, to remove the mandatory minimum pay by weight charge for the collection of recyclable (green bin) waste as part of the new household waste collection regime.

"I believe it was the right decision to drop the green bin charge, as it will encourage even more people to recycle.

"I also welcome the introduction of paying by weight for other non-recyclable house hold waste. In accordance with the polluter-pays principle, the new scheme will give households more control of their waste costs and should provide better value for households, who prevent waste and recycle.

"Moreover, it will stimulate the prevention of waste and ensure a more environmentally sustainable approach to the management of waste in Ireland.

"As a knock-on effect of this, it will help Ireland achieve current and future EU waste targets in relation to recycling rates and the diversion of recyclable and biodegradable waste from landfill. This is crucial for Ireland’s economy and our international reputation.

"It is the quintessential win-win situation, as this new scheme is also expected to result in job creation, as a result of the processing of increasing quantities of recycling and organic waste."

Unemployment continues to drop, now at 7.9%

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, and Minister of State, Regina Doherty, said Fine Gael is continuing to deliver on its pledge to prioritise job creation and reduce unemployment. The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office reveal that the unemployment rate is now down to 7.9%.

“This is very positive news and proof yet again of Fine Gael’s commitment and success in creating the environment to get people in Meath back to work.

“The unemployment rate down of 7.9% is the lowest since November 2008 and our unemployment rate is now firmly below European averages. Unemployment has decreased in every region of the country in the last 12 months.

“155,000 new jobs have been created since the Action Plan for Jobs was launched in early 2012 and the Program for Government has reaffirmed the Action Plan for Jobs as the best way to implement ideas on job creation across Government. With 15,400 new jobs created in the first three months of 2016 we are off to a great start in meeting Fine Gael’s target of 200,000 new jobs by 2020.

“Each new job created in Meath is another family looking forward to a brighter future, and each new job created by a business is a sign of returning confidence and growth. In fact each new job created here in Meath leads to more resources which Fine Gael is committed to using to fix the many challenges we face as a society.

“This Partnership Government is determined to maintain the good progress on job creation that was started by the previous Government.

“Fine Gael in Government continues to prioritise job creation because we believe that only a strong economy, supporting people at work, can pay for the services needed to create a fair society here in Meath and around the country. Helping people back into work will lead to greater equality of opportunity, where people in Meath can plan confidently for the future.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Doherty Appointed Government Chief Whip

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regain Doherty was last week appointed Government Chief Whip, and Minister of State in the Department of An Taoiseach, and is set to take her seat at the Cabinet table for the first time this Wednesday.

Minister Doherty, who is based in Ratoath, today said “I am absolutely delighted with my appointment as Government Chief Whip. The role of the Whip was always crucial to our Parliament, but considering the formation of our new Minority Government, it is one that comes with more responsibility than ever.

“This month (May), it will be exactly ten years since I first presented myself at a Fine Gael Selection Convention, seeking the party’s nomination to run in the General Election. My recent appointment is one which I have been striving towards for a decade now, and I will continue to work towards increasing my influence on building and developing our public policy.

“I am very much looking forward to working together with my colleagues, from all sides of the House, from all parties and none, in what will be one of the most dynamic parliaments we have ever seen in Ireland.

“I envisage that I will be doing much more listening than talking in my role as Chief Whip, as we begin to see radical changes in how we do politics in Leinster House, off the back of the Committee on Dail Reform, which I have been a member of for the last seven weeks.

“One of the outputs of our work on Dail reform will see the establishment of a new business committee, which will arrange the order of proceedings in the Dail, giving greater power to parliamentarians to have their say in the order of business in the house. Order of business previously would have been the sole responsibility of the Government at the helm at the time, and I strongly believe that this will enhance and enrich our legislation from this point forward.”

Concluding, Doherty said, “I am very enthusiastic about the portfolio that I have been given; it is a new challenge that I feel privileged to have, in a parliament that will have more power than ever before.” 

Doherty delivers 24 hour blood pressure monitoring for Ashbourne

Government Chief Whip, and Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regain Doherty has confirmed that 24 hour blood pressure monitoring will be available in Ashbourne.

The Meath East TD has said “high blood pressure is a major risk factor for many diseases, such as stroke, heart disease, blindness, and kidney failure. I recently called on the then Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, requesting that 24 hour blood pressure monitoring become available in Deerpark Medical Centre as a matter of urgency.

“I very much welcome the Minister’s speedy turnaround in this regard, which demonstrates the importance of making available this facility locally. The early detection, and quick diagnosis, of high blood pressure can quite literally be the difference between life and death.”

Continuing, Doherty said “this new scheme, while quite straight forward in its nature, will play a vital role in reducing the risk of diseases associated with high blood pressure. The 24 hour blood pressure monitors are the crème de la crème inaccurate blood pressure readings. Many standard blood pressure tests, while useful in day to day standard tests, can give false readings of elevated blood pressure, depending on day time and night time readings.

Concluding, the newly appointed Minister of State said “The provision of accurate readings, depending on the time of day and activities of a patient, will allow for precise readings, and more efficient diagnosis of many diseases. Treatment and appropriate action for high blood pressure, ranging from weight loss, avoiding salt, regular exercise, and medication where necessary, will now be more efficient and exact than ever before as a result of this new scheme.” 

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Avoca to receive a warm welcome to Dunboyne

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regain Doherty has welcomed the approval of planning permission for Avoca to make modifications to the site at its twelfth store, which is to be located in Dunboyne.

The Meath East TD said “Avoca recently received planning permission to make modifications to its new site at Piercetown, Dunboyne, which, once opened, I am certain will receive a very warm welcome from the village.

“This fantastic news brings us one step closer to bringing further 900 jobs to South Meath. Considering recent announcements, from Shire and Facebook, our Royal County is certainly proving a great attraction for investment from both within the country, and from further afield.

“We cannot underestimate how lucky we are with our location; our proximity to Dublin City Centre, Dublin Port and the airport, are absolutely contributors to drawing investment to Meath. However, our highly skilled and educated local workforce, I believe, is our unique selling point to the Avoca’s and Shires of the world.

“There are many locations, which also have superb connectivity, but in the last three months, three large firms have chosen Meath. Avoca's arrival is not an accident, or luck, rather it is credit to the people of Meath, who are the driving force behind any such investment. Additionally, Meath County Council is constantly working, quietly behind the scenes, to make our county what it is, and for that we should be very grateful."

Concluding, Doherty said “I am very much looking forward to joining Dunboyne in welcoming Avoca to Meath, which is set to be its ‘most ambitious store to date’.” 
Regina said Avoca’s arrival to Dunboyne is not an accident, or luck, rather it is credit to the people of Meath, who are the driving force behind any such investment