Rollout of €2.9bn rural broadband 'will begin in October'
The rollout of the state-subsidised National Broadband Plan (NBP) will begin between October and December, the Government has announced.
A statement from the Department of Communications reconfirmed the Government will sign a contract with the NBP's "preferred bidder" for the €2.9bn project.
"It is expected that the NBP contract will be signed later this year when all of the legal and financial documentation are finalised with roll-out commencing shortly thereafter," said a department spokesman.
Officials told TDs this month a timeline was unclear. "We're trying to get the contract done in the next few months," said department secretary general Mark Griffin.
However, the start of the rural rollout is being promised for the last three months of this year.
"While the majority of premises will be passed in the initial five years, the overall rollout will be concluded within seven years," the department said.
The Government repeated that a rival proposal from Eir, which claimed an alternative could be done for under €1bn in subsidies, has been rejected.
"The evidence presented by Eir… does not meet the objectives and contains material which has already been raised and dismissed during Eir's participation in the procurement process," it said.
"It was outlined that the provision of a State subsidy to any company without competition is not legal under procurement and State Aid rules, nor would it meet the key objectives of the NBP."
A proposal by wireless operators for a patchwork alternative solution they say would cost €400m in subsidies plus a €500m loan fund has also been dismissed.
Put forward by Regional Internet Service Providers Association chairman Marcus Matthews, it claimed it could be done by building no more than 30 new masts throughout the country.
Mr Matthews denied charges from TDs the plan seemed "too good to be true".