'A national solution for a national problem' - Taoiseach launches €3bn Broadband Plan

'A national solution for a national problem' - Taoiseach launches €3bn Broadband Plan
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and US business man David McCourt who leads The Irish Broadband consortium sign the National Broadband plan at St Kevin's National School in Co Wicklow. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has launched the €3bn national broadband plan with pledges that 1.1m people will benefit from the high-speed connections.

Announcing the signing of the contract at St Kevin's School in Wicklow today, he said the plan was a "national solution for a national problem".

Every home and farm would benefit, he told community leaders, business people and other politicians at the launch.

Ministers compared the plan to rural electrification in Ireland and the introduction of free education.

Mr Varadkar claimed there were politicians who wanted "to divide the country" who opposed the plan.

Under the contract signed with the group under US billionaire and businessman David McCourt, some 145,000 kms of fibre will be laid across the country.

Communications Minister Richard Bruton said there would be “boots on the ground” within the next eight weeks.

By 2020, there will be 298 connections in counties. In the second year, connections will be guaranteed in all counties. The plans expects to see 120,000 premises connected by 2021 and an extra 100,000 properties a year after that.

While Mr Bruton said the EU had approved the plan and ruled out any state aid concerns, a number of commercial operators are believed to be preparing to take a legal challenge over the deal. Their claims are expected to centre on the intervention areas and the fact the state is providing support to a competing operator in those areas.

However, Mr Bruton said the government was prepared for any legal challenge and that the EU had approved the deal.

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