Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton has said there is no going back “to tear up the terms and conditions” of the tendering process for the National Broadband contract that were set in December 2015.
He was responding to a claim by Eir that it could provide the National Broadband Plan for €1billion.
Mr Bruton told RTE radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show that the rules for competition (for the broadband contract) were set as far back as Dec 2015, at which time Eir made a bid for €2.7billion.
He questioned if the €1billion bid would include the obligations required in terms of timely delivery to quarter of the population “who would be left behind, guaranteeing customer service, guaranteeing fair competition, fair charging and so on.
“We have yet to get from Eir the relevant assumptions and models that are being applied in their analysis. They bid €2.7 billion, now they’re saying they could do it for a different price.
“This has been analysed up and down for a long time. What is Eir describing in its price?
“My understanding if that they refused to participate in a number of elements of the contract. They did not want the commitment of customer service, of being obliged to roll out to 100 per cent, they did not want penalties, they did not want the separate establishment of a company which would be guaranteeing fair competition and access for all third party players, they did not want to be bound to have charges set in a certain way, they wanted to have discretion about charging more to certain people.”
Mr Bruton said it was important to say State aid could not be provided to a dominant incumbent player.
“We have to be very careful that State aid rules are applied, that the public expenditure code is applied, that it is delivered.
“Will have to see their model.
“They are now producing a different approach. They wouldn't agree to the original terms and conditions.
“If there's substance in this and they're saying that dropping that (fee for rental of poles), that would be a very different circumstance.
“We do not see a cheaper way of doing it that is compliant with State aid rules.
“Before we sign a contract we want to examine any evidence that is going to be put forward that might cast doubt on the justification of signing that contract.
“If we were to walk away from Granahan McCourt, we would have to abandon the process, we haven't signed a contract.
“We’re not going to go back and tear up the terms and conditions of this competition that were set December 2015.”