A ruling from telecoms regulator Comreg could knock tens or even hundreds of millions off the €3bn National Broadband Plan (NBP) bill at the expense of Eir.
Comreg has issued a draft decision likely to cut the €900m fee NBP must pay Eir for access to the telecoms company's rural poles and ducts.
The regulator says the price to access Eir infrastructure may be unrealistically high at €900m over the 25-year term of the NBP contract because it is based on a pricing level set for much smaller, short-term commercial contracts. The scale of access needed, relative stability of the funding and long length of the National Broadband Plan contract, means that it would be fairer for Eir to pitch its access price lower, Comreg said.
"Comreg proposes to draw a distinction between, on the one hand, generic access for CEI [Civil Engineering Infrastructure], and on the other hand, CEI access by NBI [National Broadband Ireland] for the purposes of the NBP. This distinction is proposed having regard to the significant differences between these two types of access," said Comreg in its draft decision.
A spokesperson for Eir said that the company would study the draft decision.
Separately, the Department of Communications has confirmed Coillte chairperson, Bernie Gray as the government nominee to the board of National Broadband Ireland. Ms Gray is a management consultant who held senior management posts in Eir.