Business Technology

Thursday 19 September 2019

Government set to press ahead with controversial broadband plan despite criticism

Richard Bruton: Contract with preferred bidder ‘due in weeks’. Photo: Tom Burke
Richard Bruton: Contract with preferred bidder ‘due in weeks’. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

THE government looks set to press ahead with the controversial €2.9bn National Broadband Plan (NBP), despite opposition criticism of the project in an Oireachtas Committee report.

Communications Minister Richard Bruton denied that he would ignore the committee's recommendations.

But he said the high speed broadband will be a "lifeline" for rural Ireland and it's "absolutely essential that 1.1m are not left behind in terms of access to a technology that is transformative".

He added: "I believe that this is the right thing to go ahead with this deal."

The NBP has been beset with delays and difficulties and the final contract still hasn't been signed.

An Oireachtas Communications committee report criticised the tendering process.

It recommended that an external review of the plans take place and that the network infrastructure should be kept in State ownership, which will not happen under the current terms of the  NBP.

Fine Gael members of the committee opposed the report's conclusions and recommendations.

Mr Bruton said a preferred bidder for the NBP has been appointed and added: "we have to do the due diligence before we sign the contracts".

He said he will be considering the committee's recommendations

Mr Bruton defended the tendering process saying it was "very rigorous" and included  oversight of the work with "independent evaluation and expertise were brought in".

He warned: "If there were any of that process to be changed, we would have to abandon the tender and start all over again.

"That would involve a five year wait for people to get access to broadband"

On the prospect of an external review he said that the NBP process is "full of external reviews and due diligence" and the plans have been subject too "intense scrutiny".

He denied that he would ignore the Committee's report.

Mr Bruton indicated he was open to a recommendation put forward by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan that new rural 'one-off' homes that get planning permission should pay the costs of connections to the network.

"That's an idea that could be looked at within the context of  the arrangements that are in place," he said.

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