The latest report from the Comptroller & Auditor General says that while the company running the National Broadband Plan has accrued substantial delay-related fines, takeup of the service is running ahead of projections.
National Broadband Ireland has accrued fines and sanctions of €157,000 for delays to rollout of the National Broadband Plan, the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) has found.
NBI is also facing further sanctions, the watchdog says, under performance monitoring criteria currently being assessed by the Department of Communications.
Because of the rollout delays, NBI has collected less than half of the total government subsidy it had expected to get under the scheme’s initial projections. In total, it received a total of €177.2m by the end of 2021, which was 48pc of what had been budgeted for that period.
When the seven-year rollout is complete to 562,000 rural premises around the country, the total subsidy payable to NBI could reach €2.7bn, including a €500m contingency fund.
Last week, NBI announced that the rollout had ‘passed’ 80,000 premises, including 7,000 farms, with 19,537 of these premises signing up for the broadband service.
But this remains substantially behind its initial rollout plan, which had targeted 115,000 ‘passed’ by last January.
NBI has blamed Covid-related labour disruption for the bulk of the rollout delays.
However, the C&AG found that takeup of the service is significantly above expectations in areas where the fibre broadband technology has been rolled out. The watchdog said that while initial takeup had been expected to be around 16pc, actual takeup was 24pc.
“While the actual take-up by number to end January 2022 is lower than estimated, the rate of take-up — the proportion of premises connected relative to premises passed — exceeds the original estimates,” the report said.
“The Department [of Communications] also noted that one of the existing providers is planning to switch off the existing copper network services once the NBI fibre network is rolled out, which will increase demand significantly as many consumers will then have fewer options to avail of services.”
NBI has internally projected that take-up of the available broadband service will reach 80pc for residential homes and higher take-up rates for business customers, by the end of its 25 year contract period.
The company’s latest figures for homes connected to the network is 19,537.