Tuesday 19 February 2019

One million homes and businesses face further wait for rural broadband rollout

Communications Minister Denis Naughten Picture: Arthur Carron
Communications Minister Denis Naughten Picture: Arthur Carron

Adrian Weckler and Paul Melia

the delayed National Broadband Plan could face further rollout setbacks as one million homes and businesses are left waiting, Communications Minister Denis Naughten has admitted.

Mr Naughten said building may now not start until late 2017, almost a year after the project was due to kick off.

The scheme was set to begin next June after a previous delay of six months was announced.

However, almost one million homes and businesses may have to wait longer to see the project get under way.

"We will hopefully be rolling out the contract in the second half of next year," said Mr Naughten.

"We hope at the end of next year that you will be able to put your Eircode into our website and you will know when you're getting your broadband."

A further delay in starting a buildout of the broadband scheme could see some homes and businesses waiting until 2023 to see modern communications systems arrive in their areas.

By then, Ireland's broadband infrastructure may be out of date, with a new push by the European Union to set 100Mbs as a continent-wide standard, over three times the 30Mbs speed being promised by the Government under the current plan.

Under the National Broadband Plan, 927,000 homes and businesses in rural areas and on the fringes of towns are to receive a broadband connection of at least 30Mbs.

A public-private contract is to be contested between three shortlisted bidders - Eir, Vodafone and eNet. The Government has said that the buildout will take between three and five years from the date of commencement.

"The areas are being prioritised," said Mr Naughten. "We're engaging with the three consortia which will roll out the contract. In relation to the budget, we have sought money to complete the tendering process."

The rural network will be privatised after its 25-year contract is up, a move calculated to keep initial rollout costs down and allow the State to spend up to €600m on other projects. Most of the premises targeted under the scheme will see their broadband connection materialise in the first two years of the contract.

Irish Independent

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