Wednesday 21 August 2019

Government sets date for rollout of National Broadband Plan

Richard Bruton
Richard Bruton
Eir chief Carolan Lennon. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

The Government has said that the rollout of the state-subsidised National Broadband Plan will commence between October and December.

A new statement from the Department of Communications reconfirmed that the Government will sign a contract with the National Broadband Plan’s ‘preferred bidder’ for the €2.9bn National Broadband Plan.

“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 of Communications spokesman.

Earlier this month, officials told TDs that a timeline was unclear.

READ MORE: Eight telecoms operators will consider legal action if Eir rollout national broadband plan

“We're trying to get the contract done in the next few months but I can't give you a definitive answer,” said Mark Griffin, secretary general of the Department of Communications.

However, the start of the rural rollout is still being promised for the last three months of the year.

“The rollout will commence in Q4 2019 with significant pre-mobilisation activities on going over the next number of months,” said the government statement. “While the majority of premises will be passed in the initial five years the overall rollout will be concluded within seven years.”

11Carolan Lennon1 C (INT_ED5_S01) (Read-Only).jpg
Eir chief Carolan Lennon. Photo: Steve Humphreys

However, the Government has reiterated that a rival proposal from Eir, which claimed an alternative rural rollout could be done for under €1bn in taxpayer subsidies, has been rejected.

READ MORE: Eir ready to 'reach a deal' with Government on National Broadband Plan replacement - chief executive

“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,” said the Government statement today.

“In a response sent to Eir today, 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 National Broadband Plan.”

The Department has similarly dismissed a proposal by wireless operators through its lobbying wing, the Regional Internet Service Providers Association, for a patchwork alternative solution that the lobbying group says would cost €400m in subsidies plus a €500m loan fund.

The wireless plan, put forward by Rispa chairman Marcus Matthews, also claimed to be possible by building no more than 30 new masts throughout the country. Mr Matthews denied charges from TDs that the plan seemed “too good to be true”.

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