Communications Minister refuses to commit to deadline for National Broadband Plan

Communications Minister refuses to commit to deadline for National Broadband Plan

By Elaine Loughlin, Political Correspondent

The Communications Minister Richard Burton has refused to give any commitment on when rural broadband will be delivered.

Mr Burton would not provide a timeline for the roll-out of high-speed broadband to more than 540,000 homes and businesses around the country who are still without the service.

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) has been plagued by delays and controversies including the recent resignation of former Minister Denis Naughten over his meetings with businessman David McCourt who is part of the one remaining consortium bidding for the multi-million contract.

Communications Minister refuses to commit to deadline for National Broadband Plan

Mr Bruton said that in 2012 just 30% of homes had high-speed broadband. That has now increased to 74% of households.

He said a final evaluation of the bid would be delivered to him in the coming weeks and it would then be evaluated by Cabinet

"I am not going to preempt and make commitments in relation to a project until we have that project evaluated and a decision by Government, then we will be in a position to say when will be the roll-out time."

Mr Bruton said he had not spoken to Junior Minister Pat Breen about his meetings with Mr Court as it could be seen as "interfering" with the work of Peter Smyth, who has been tasked with carrying out an examination of the NBP tendering process to date.

"It would be off if I was seeking to interview people who ought to be interviewed by Peter Smyth who is an independent auditor."

Speaking on RTE radio, Mr Bruton also would not give a timeframe for the appointment of a digital safety commissioner.

He said the Government has published a digital strategy which includes new legislation for criminal offences in the area.

Referring to a Bill calling for the establishment of a digital safety commissioner, Mr Bruton said: "This Bill has been presented to the Oireachtas by Sinn Féin. It passed, no one opposed the Bill, so the digital safety commissioner and its remit is being examined.

"I have asked the attorney general to advise on how we can do this in a robust way because there will be boundaries that have to be explored between the responsibility of the gardaí - who have a role in taking down illegal material - and what a digital safety commissioner will do.

"I can assure you that Government is taking the lead in this."

The Minister also warned that Government will be increasing carbon tax in the future.


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