Communications Minister Eamon Ryan has launched a ten-point plan to extend and enhance the provision of broadband services in Ireland.

The Government says it will deliver universal broadband access by early 2010 and that connection speeds will equal or exceed those in other EU countries by 2012.

Minister Ryan says a national broadband infrastructure is essential for economic and social development.

This morning he launched a discussion document on how best to progress this aim.

Among the commitments are a pledge to introduce high spped 100mb per second broadband connections to all secondary schools on a phased basis.

An investment of €435m has been earmarked under the National Development Plan 2007-2013.

In the paper the Government sets out ten commitments:

-Government will target capital investment of €435m to address the digital divide

-Universal broadband coverage in Ireland by late 2009 / early 2010

-100MB per second broadband connectivity to be introduced to secondary schools on a phased basis

-Future investment will be determined in accordance with value for money review of the Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs)

-Ensure Ireland’s continued high level of international connectivity

-Major public infrastructure projects will have to install ducting at the construction phase. Government will establish a one stop shop to provide service providers with flexible and open access to existing and future ducting infrastructure

-New premises will be required to install open access fibre connections where practicable

-Maintenance of the regulatory framework necessary for fair and transparent competition across a range of platforms. Allocation of spectrum to encourage trialling and development of flexible new mobile technologies

-Use of Government purchasing power in order to stimulate demand, create economies of scale and better public services

-Establishment of a specialised research programme to monitor developments

A public forum on the paper will be held in September.

The Dublin Chamber has criticised the plan, saying it sets no clear target for a high-speed network.

Click here to read an interview with the former chairman of broadband lobby group IrelandOffline, Damien Mulley.