Sunday 26 May 2019

Explainer: Five things you need to know about the broadband plan

Communications Minister Richard Bruton. Photo: Tom Burke
Communications Minister Richard Bruton. Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Group Political Editor Kevin Doyle explains in simple terms the five things you need to know about the broadband plan.

1. Every house in the country

The Government decision means every home in the country will be entitled to high-speed fibre broadband. There are currently 540,000 homes and businesses outside of the areas served by commercial providers.

The option of excluding 5pc of the most remote homes was looked at but ministers decided everybody has to be catered for even though this has pushed up the cost considerably.

Up to 10,000 homes will not be able to get a fibre connection due to geographical factors but these will be provided with an alternative such as wireless 5G.

2. Roll-out will take seven years

It is hoped that the final contract will be signed this autumn and work will begin the next day. Part of the deal is that workers are in every county within two years. A target of reaching 133,000 homes in that period has been set. After that between 70,000 to 100,000 homes will be added to a broadband line every. The final home should have high-speed broadband within seven years.

3. A new company is to be set up

The contract for broadband is going to be awarded to a consortium led by Granahan McCourt. However, they will be expected to establish a new company which will be known as National Broadband Ireland.

NBI will work with Nokia on its service. Eir stands to make €1bn for allowing fibre cables piggy back on its network. NBI will not have its own retail presence competing with other retailers. It is expected to employ 1,500 people.

4. Taxpayers will foot the bill for €2.97bn

The broadband plan comes with an eye-watering bill of €2.97bn over 25 years. Much of that will be frontloaded, meaning it will be paid in the early stages of the contract. When the process started it was believed the bill could have been as low as €1bn. There is a ‘claw back’ mechanism that might see the State recoup some monies if customer take-up is higher than predicted or infrastructure costs fall. Ministers will be keen to stress that the €2.97bn figure is capped and therefore cannot spiral like what happened with the National Children’s Hospital.

5. Is it worth it?

This is about much more than access to Netflix. Rural Ireland needs proper infrastructure if it is to remain an appealing place to live and work. Interaction with State services is increasingly online. It is suggested access to good broadband will be worth €12,000 to each home in practical terms.

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