Wednesday 23 October 2019

Taxpayers will fork out €10,000 a go to connect remote homes to internet

(stock photo)
(stock photo)
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Ministers are to justify spending more than €10,000 bringing broadband to some remote homes on the grounds it will be a healthcare issue in the future.

There are major fears in Government over how the publication of its latest broadband plan tomorrow will play out ahead of local elections.

A decision will be taken to hand a massive contract, worth up to €3bn, for supplying high-speed broadband to every home in the country to the only bidder in the process, a consortium led by American businessman David McCourt.

The Irish Independent understands it will cost the State in excess of €10,000 each, to bring broadband to some individual homes in the most remote parts of the country.

But a report commissioned by the Department of Communications during the tender review has found that anything less than full coverage would result in "significant challenges" to the Government's health strategy and the use of technology in schools.

This is now set to be latched on to by ministers who fear their management of the process will be conflated with the cost overruns at the National Children's Hospital.

"In a decade's time, this kind of internet access will no longer be about 'can you work from home?' It'll be about your healthcare. It'll be about education," one minister told the Irish Independent.


"If we're going to say there's a portion of people who won't get that, that level of divide is completely different from where we are now."

It is will cost €650m to bring just 108,000 homes into the scheme, more than €6,000 per home or business.

This figure will vary depending on accessibility of properties but in some cases the bill for individual homes will be well in excess of €10,000.

Reducing the number of houses being connected by 5pc (27,110 properties) would save €300m. Opposition parties have already questioned the cost implications of a tendering process that resulted in only one bid being considered.

As a result, Communications Minister Richard Bruton commissioned a series of reviews into "the different contingencies and risks".

He will recommend that the National Broadband Plan proceeds and tomorrow evening, the Government will engage in a major PR campaign to defend that decision.

Upsides that will be promoted by the Government include the potential for consumer choice and a reduction in wholesale connection rates.

A KMPG report failed to identify a "technical solution" for bringing broadband to all of Ireland that would be cheaper than the fibre approach being pursued.

It concluded the Government could not simply abandon homes and businesses in the country's most remote parts without creating other problems.

Irish Independent

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