National Broadband plan facing further possible delays as 'shovels in the ground' unlikely to happen until mid-2018
The National Broadband is facing further delays with regional authorities being informed that construction work may not begin until the middle of next year.
Executives in rural development authorities have been told by Department of Communications officials that "shovels in the ground" are now unlikely to happen in the first three months of 2018.
Instead, it now looks like physical construction will not commence before the summer or Autumn of next year.
The move means that few of the 540,000 rural homes and businesses waiting for the program to begin will see broadband at any point next year.
It also comes as the two remaining shortlisted companies for the state-funded contract, Eir and Enet, bed down into a detailed competitive tendering process.
The government has declined to put a date on when fibre built under the National Broadband Plan will reach Irish homes, although it insists that almost all of it will be completed by 2021.
Siro, the joint venture between Vodafone and the ESB, recently pulled out of the shortlisted tender process, complaining that it couldn't see a viable process.
The company now says that its own fibre broadband services is now available to over 110,000 Irish homes and businesses in large Irish regional towns.
Eir is also building out a privately-funded fibre broadband network, saying that it is on track to reach 300,000 regional homes and businesses by the end of next year.
However, neither company will service the 540,000 rural homes without state funding through the National Broadband Plan.
Recent statistics from the European Commission showed that Irish small businesses out perform European counterparts when they have access to high speed broadband.
Regional authorities have had to allocate large portions of their budgets to help finance the state-backed National Broadband Plan, which is set to cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of euro.