Monday 16 September 2019

Committee urges new delay to broadband plan


Richard Bruton: Contract with preferred bidder ‘due in weeks’. Photo: Tom Burke
Richard Bruton: Contract with preferred bidder ‘due in weeks’. Photo: Tom Burke
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

The Government looks set to dismiss a recommendation from an Oireachtas Committee to delay or abandon the roll-out of the €2.9bn National Broadband Plan (NBP).

The cross-party committee, which voted along party lines, advised that even if the NBP keeps going, the Government should change the project contract to ensure any resulting infrastructure is retained by the State.

However, committee members said they were unsure of what the total infrastructure will be or how much it will be worth.

The Government is due to begin the roll-out in the next eight weeks, with Communications Minister Richard Bruton previously saying a contract with National Broadband Ireland, the State's preferred bidder, is due to be signed "in the coming weeks".

The NBP will connect around 500,000 rural homes and businesses to high-speed broadband at a cost of up to €2.9bn.

Although Mr Bruton has said he will listen to what the committee report says, sources said he is unlikely to adhere to its recommendations on delaying the rural roll-out further, or re-evaluating its constituent parts.

"The Government in May 2019 approved the appointment of National Broadband Ireland as preferred bidder," a spokesman said. "Work continues on finalising the contract and in parallel to this work, the department will consider the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee."

Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley said the process should be put to one side while Eir is asked whether they might come back into the process. He said the State was "wasting" money.

However, Mr Dooley said Fianna Fáil would not "bring down the Government" over the issue.

Sinn Féin want the plan to be scrapped and the ESB to be mandated to deliver broadband to rural areas.

Irish Independent

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