Friday 23 August 2019

Eir boss insists company ready to strike a cut-price deal for rural broadband


Eir CEO Carolan Lennon
Eir CEO Carolan Lennon
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Eir's chief executive says her company is ready to "reach a deal" with the Government on a replacement to the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

The move comes as Eir continues to chip away at what it calls the "expensive and unnecessary" conditions of the State's rural rollout process.

In an email to Eir staff, CEO Carolan Lennon said Eir is awaiting a response to its most recent letter outlining its approach.

"If we could reach a deal with the [Department of Communications] on rural broadband we would build up the resources needed to ensure we can deliver both at the same time," she said, referring to the company's other broadband rollout plans in cities.

"We await the Department's response and if at any time in the future it would like to look at a commercial model to deliver NBP then we will engage seriously with a view to delivering it."

Ms Lennon told TDs and Senators last week that Eir could roll broadband out to the 540,000 homes in the Government's "intervention area" for under €1bn including Vat, but only if the current delivery, price and transparency conditions attached to the NBP were dropped.

The Government rejected Eir's comments, saying the company would have to cut too many corners and raise prices too much to deliver it under the standards required by state aid.

A new process would take "at least" three years to decide upon, a spokeswoman said.

The Department of Communications' top civil servant, Mark Griffin, also told TDs it would be illegal under state aid rules to dump the NBP process and hand €1bn to Eir.

However, Fianna Fáil has urged the Government to slow or stop the state-sponsored rollout to further examine Eir's alternative.

Ms Lennon said Eir's alternative rollout would be based on its broadband network to 300,000 rural premises, which is almost completed, "for less than €1bn if we were to use the same tried and tested process".

"While this network would not be exactly the same as envisioned in the NBP, it would be exactly the same as the 340,000 and it would deliver the same policy objective," she said.

Irish Independent

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