Finance Minister: Govt yet to decide on roll-out of broadband plan

Finance Minister: Govt yet to decide on roll-out of broadband plan

The Government has yet to decide whether it will go ahead with the roll-out of the controversial National Broadband Plan (NBP), the Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has confirmed.

The plan to deliver high-speed broadband to every home in the country has been the subject of delays and controversy with the cost spiralling from an initial €500m to around €3bn.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had indicated that he wanted Cabinet to make a decision on the plan before Easter but this did not happen.

However, it is understood that the Government is eager to press ahead with the NBP despite some concerns around the rising cost of the rollout of broadband in rural Ireland.

Minister Donohoe said he would be taking all of the advice received onboard before making a decision on the plan.

"It has gone through a very extensive debate and process within the Government with the Department of Communications. No recommendation has been taken to Government yet in relation to it, but that will be happening I believe soon, and I will be taking account of all of the advice and views on that matter when I give my views on the project."

Asked whether he has been advised by officials not to go ahead with it or whether they expressed concerns about it, Mr Donohoe said he had received "a lot of different views in relation to this project".

"I think the imperative thing is that we allow the work that is underway in relation to the broadband plan to come to conclusion. That will be happening and then the Cabinet will be briefed on all of the different issues in relation to it, and all of the different opportunities in relation to it.

"This is a plan now that has gone through a very extensive tendering process. We are now aware of many of the different costs and complexities that are involved in relation to delivering a project of this scale and because of this I think Cabinet will be well informed and well placed to make a good decision on what is a really important investment in our country’s future."

Timmy Dooley.
Timmy Dooley.

It comes as Fianna Fáil’s Communications spokesperson Timmy Dooley claimed the tender process for the National Broadband Plan has "absolutely failed".

Mr Dooley called for engagement with the other bidders who pulled out earlier in the tender process.

A consortium led by American businessman David McCourt is the only remaining bidder for the contract to provide broadband to more than 500,000 homes and businesses across the country.

"It now clearly points out that the tender process that the State put in place to identify a bidder that would provide a service and value for money for the State has absolutely failed.

"It failed around 18 months ago when two of the main competitors pulled out of the race. It was clear at that stage that there was only going to be one outcome," he told Newstalk Breakfast.

"To the best of my knowledge there has been no serious engagement with either the ESB, Vodafone or Eir - I think that was a fundamental mistake on behalf of the Government and its agents."

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