Thursday 19 September 2019

Cut cost of rural broadband by charging customers more - Eir boss

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Shawn Pogatchnik

The cost of the National Broadband Plan could be slashed by charging customers more for connections and service, the chief of telecoms company Eir told an Oireachtas committee.

Chief executive Carolan Lennon also said reaching homes with overhead cabling rather than buried lines and using existing fibre and sales teams rather than subsidising needless duplication could also drive costs down.

Eir - which withdrew from the tendering competition in January 2018 citing myriad problems with Government bid requirements - now says it can deliver a similar quality of connection to 540,000 rural homes currently without broadband for under €1bn in subsidies, a third of the bill to taxpayers proposed by market newcomers NBI.

Ms Lennon told the communications committee a rational cost-saving approach would mean Eir could use its existing 27,000 kilometres of recently laid rural fibre, as well as Eir's existing sales and customer service units, as part of a radically revised bid.

The NBP seeks a standalone internet provider dedicated to serving Ireland's broadband black spots.

Eir would rent - for some €900m over 25 years - its poles and ducts to NBI, which would lay its own fibre beside Eir's recently laid cables.

Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley told Ms Lennon that the Government requirements "prevented you from making savings based on your existing infrastructure".

He said the requirement for all bidders to compete on a level playing field means "we will have had pure competition all right - but it will cost the taxpayer two billion".

"Indeed," Ms Lennon replied.

Fine Gael members grilled Ms Lennon on whether in fact she was promising the same service as that envisioned by NBI.

TD Kate O'Connell called Eir's proposals "an entirely different project".

Irish Independent

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