Wednesday 17 July 2019

Explainer: Why did Eir quit the National Broadband Plan and what does it mean for rural Ireland?

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In a move that raises questions about Eir’s commitment to rural Ireland since it was taken over by a French billionaire, the communications company has quit the National Broadband Plan, leaving the government’s rural broadband rollout with just one remaining bidder.

But why did this happen? What does it mean for people living in rural parts of Ireland? And just how many people could be affected?

What is the National Broadband Plan?

The plan is an 'open' network that will be required, by law, to be accessible to broadband firms who want to offer their services. Once a fibre line is built to your rural home, that infrastructure is there for good – any operator can use it to sell you their high-speed internet service.

Why did Eir quit?

In a statement yesterday, the State’s biggest telecoms operator blamed ComReg for withdrawing from the bidding process, citing new "uncertainty" over pricing.

ComReg is the statutory body responsible for the regulation of the electronic communications sector, as well as the postal sector.

Who is left bidding for the Government contract?

Enet is now the only company bidding for the contract.

Yesterday Enet reaffirmed its “commitment” to getting the rollout done.

Is the taxpayer now facing a higher bill?

The head of Enet, David McCourt, told that the Eir withdrawal from the competitive process would not mean a higher price to taxpayers, given it meant one less competitor for the massive contract.

"Almost all of that has been submitted at this stage," he said. "We’re at the very end of this part of it."

What has been the response from the Government?

The Government last night was insisting that the National Broadband Plan remained intact.

In addition Communications Minister Denis Naughten pledged that the overall bill to the taxpayer will not be higher due to Eir’s move.

What does it mean for those waiting for broadband in rural areas?

Homes and businesses in these areas have been left with uncertainty as to the future.

How many people are waiting in broadband?

The State-subsidised rural broadband scheme promised to connect 540,000 homes and businesses to high-speed internet services over a period of four years.

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