Government shaves over €200m off initial National Broadband Plan spend, cut to €275m
The government is to spend €275m on an “initial stimulus” for the National Broadband Plan, just over half the sum originally pledged for the rural broadband scheme.
However, Minister for Communications Alex White said today that the sum “does not represent the full cost of the National Broadband Plan” and that a future government would “likely” spend more on the scheme in future years.
Ahead of a public tender on the issue which is expected “towards the end of 2015”, Minister White also said that the cost to the state of funding the National Broadband Scheme “would likely be spread over 20 years”.
The National Broadband Plan is a scheme to connect hundreds of thousands of rural homes and businesses to fibre broadband, based on mapping evidence which shows they are not served by any existing high speed providers.
The government had initially stated a plan to spend up to €510m on the project.
“The €275m will provide the initial stimulus for the early years of the state intervention under the National Broadband Plan,” said Minister White.
He said that the €275m allocated will be used to draw down EU funding of €75m, “which has already been agreed”. The Department of Communications, he said, is also at an advanced stage of exploring the scope for further European funding through the European Investment Bank and the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund.
Minister White said the NBP was on course to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland has access to high-speed broadband by 2020, promising that 85pc of premises will be covered by 2018. He said that “formal procurement” will begin by the end of 2015.
However, it is not yet clear how many rural homes and businesses will now qualify for coverage by the National Broadband Plan. The government’s original estimate of 700,000 premises may be cut short by subsequent announcements from Eir and Siro, the joint venture between Vodafone and the ESB. Both companies have indicated that they will cover more rural homes and businesses than originally planned, thus reducing the size of the catchment area envisaged by the state-subsidised National Broadband Plan.