Eir at risk of missing deadline to provide broadband for 300,000
Eir may miss a Government-agreed deadline to connect 300,000 regional homes and businesses around Ireland to high-speed broadband by the end of 2018.
Both the company and the Government say Storm Ophelia has thrown off the roll-out timetable.
Both parties say that force majeure provisions have kicked in, with the final roll-out possibly extending into 2019.
By the end of December 2017, 120,000 of the 300,000 connections were completed, behind the company's target of 132,000.
The delay means Eir will either have to increase its rollout plan from 500 homes per day or miss the deadline in 10 months' time.
Last year, the company signed a contract with the government for the completion of the 300,000 by the end of 2018 as a condition for the government to strike those homes off the state-subsidised National Broadband Plan roll-out list.
The premises involved are generally located around regional towns and are separate from the 540,000 homes and businesses in rural areas that are to receive state-subsidised fibre broadband over the next five years under the National Broadband Plan.
The missed deadline comes after Eir announced a new chief executive, Carolan Lennon, who is in charge of Eir's wholesale broadband wing.
"We are fully committed to completing our roll-out and it remains our aim to do so by the end of December 2018," said a spokesman for Eir.
"We have now passed more than 170,000 premises with fibre to the home technology across Ireland. 130,000 of those connections are in rural Ireland and 120,000 premises are part of the commitment contract.
"As outlined by the Department of Communications, the force majeure impact of Storm Ophelia, led to an agreed reduction in the Q4 target, to 20,000."
The 300,000-premise fibre network is a wholesale network, meaning that other retailers can purchase access to it to re-sell to householders or businesses.
However, several major broadband providers have said they will not use the network, blaming access pricing that is too high.
Last month, Eir controversially withdrew from the National Broadband Plan, blaming complexity and a lack of economic prospect for its participation in the 25-year state contract.
That leaves a sole bidder, Enet, to negotiate with the Government for the contract, which will not now seen any connections until next year at the earliest.
Officials from the Department of Communications say they hope to see a contract signed with Enet this Autumn.
However, Enet executives say there may still be stumbling blocks, principally in the form of access to Eir's rural infrastructure, deemed "critical" for the state-backed scheme to work.
Eir executives say the existing regulated price for access to its rural poles and ducts is a fair one, leading to possible conflict on the issue in coming months.
According to the Government, 69pc of the 2.3m premises around the country currently have access to medium or high speed broadband: "By the end of 2018 it is expected that 77pc will have access, climbing to 90pc in 2020."