By Pádraig Hoare
The Government must proceed “without delay” on the National Broadband Plan (NBP), according to business group Ibec, as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he expects the contract to be signed “this autumn”.
Ibec called for the NBP tendering process to be finalised “as soon as possible”, saying regional business is falling further behind Dublin, especially startups and SMEs, without world-class broadband.
Communications Minister Denis Naughten said this week that the process for appointing a firm to carry out the plan is in the “final stages” — which he has said on repeated occasions since October last year, without providing a specific timeframe.
The Department of Communications did not respond to queries as to a firm date for when the contract would be awarded for the plan, which over 500,000 homes and business will rely on to get broadband coverage.
The NBP has been beset by problems since it was first mooted in 2012.
Three bidders — Eir, Siro, and Enet — entered the tendering process to be granted the contract to roll out the programme, but a decision has been delayed on a number of occasions.
Enet is now the sole bidder. Eir followed Siro, a joint venture between Vodafone and the ESB, who had previously pulled out.
Enet has insisted it remains firmly committed to the project.
Director of Ibec’s Telecomms and Internet Federation, Torlach Denihan said: “You cannot have effective regional development without high-speed broadband. Without access to world-class broadband, our regions cannot be expected to develop and nurture the next generation of indigenous start-ups and SMEs.”