Thursday 19 September 2019

National Broadband Plan has cost €20m to date, rural rollout scheme boss says

Fergal Mulligan made the remarks on Twitter Stock photo
Fergal Mulligan made the remarks on Twitter Stock photo
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

The government’s National Broadband Plan programme director has dismissed recent media coverage of the rural rollout scheme as “nonsense”

Fergal Mulligan, one of the figures at the helm of the process for several years, made the remarks on Twitter.

“A lot of theoretical nonsense Ash,” he wrote. “These guys have no understanding of the telecoms market which is very complex as you know and we have just dropped nearly 20 million getting the best advice possible from people that do understand telecoms.”

Mr Mulligan was referring to a critical report on the scheme in The Sunday Business Post.

A spokesman for the Department of Communications confirmed that the tweets came from Mr Mulligan.

However, it is not clear that Mr Mulligan knew that he was tweeting publicly. The tweets were replies and reference ‘Ash’, who has not been identified.

Mr Mulligan also described the current bid as the only realistic option at present for rolling out state-backed rural broadband to over 1m people.

“A decision on the only game in town will hopefully be made in the next couple of weeks,” he tweeted.

Mr Mulligan was unable to be contacted for further comment.

The government says that fees associated with the National Broadband Plan have cost €22m to date.

“Total expenditure on the NBP in the period 2013-2018 is approximately €22.2 million,” a spokesperson said. “This expenditure includes the cost of corporate finance and economic advice, technical support and network design, the cost of legal advice, environmental advice and process auditor costs. These services were procured by way of competitive tender. In addition, the Department has staff and other administrative costs, along with travel and expenses costs for the independent Steering Group members and event costs related to the NBP.”

Last week, the National Broadband Plan received clearance from an audit report, which said that it had not been contaminated by contact between the former Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten, and the head of the bidding consortium, David McCourt.

Communications Minister Richard Bruton has indicated that a decision on the bid will be made in the coming weeks. If the government decides to proceed with the current bid, the first of 540,000 rural homes and businesses may see connections by the end of 2019.

However, opposition parties want to scrap the process, claiming that it has been badly handled and that the lead bidder, Granahan McCourt, may not be able to build it on schedule.

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