No decision on National Broadband Plan as 500,000 homes await high-speed broadband

A decision on the future of the National Broadband Plan will not be made at this week, Communications Minister Richard Bruton has confirmed.

Minister Bruton said the Government would not be making a recommendation on the awarding of the multimillion euro contract on Tuesday.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had previously said a decision on the matter could be made before Easter.

There is a determination to reach a decision in a timely way but it is an important decision and it is one that we're determined to get right

“It is not going to Government tomorrow,” Mr Bruton said.

“But I can assure you that there’s no intention to drag out this process. There is a determination to reach a decision in a timely way but it is an important decision and it is one that we’re determined to get right.”

Only one bidder remains in the process for the contract to roll out to more than 500,000 homes across the country that are waiting for access to high-speed broadband.

It is almost four years since the tender process started.

Mr Bruton said due diligence was being carried out on the bid and that the process was “close to completion” but that more time was needed to give the matter further consideration.

“The Taoiseach has made it clear he is not proposing that this will be delayed for any significant period,” he said.

The cost of the project was originally estimated at between €355 million and €512 million, but early this year Mr Varadkar said the cost may end up being “many multiples” of what was budgeted.

Mr Bruton said the Government now had to determine whether it was an investment they were willing to make.

“It’s been acknowledged that this isn’t a cheap investment and Government have to make a decision whether this is an investment that we’re willing to make,” he said.

Former communications minister Denis Naughten stepped down in October amid controversy over the rural broadband plan after it came to light that he held previously undisclosed meetings with the head of the last remaining bidder for the contract.

But a report into the procurement process found it had not been influenced by Mr Naughten, or businessman David McCourt, who is part of a consortium bidding for the contract.

Fianna Fáil says the tendering process for the National Broadband Plan has been handled horrendously and people across the country deserve better.

Communications spokesperson Timmy Dooley says families in rural Ireland are seriously struggling.

He said that small businesses, firms, kids attending school and students attending university need access to the internet.

"Families are moving towards online banking."

He said that the "vast majority of people" need access to high-speed internet in their day to day lives.

I believe this is a disgraceful betrayal of the people who have been waiting for so long and who depend on this rollout. Hundreds of thousands of households and businesses in the country are waiting for the Minister and the Government to get their act together on this long overdue project.

“There is no doubt about it, the constant delays are having a tangible negative impact across Ireland. Farmers are required to complete more of their applications for schemes online - impossible if they don’t have broadband.

"Students are sitting in the local McDonalds or Town Centre to avail of the Wi-Fi there to complete their homework, and SME’s are unable to upgrade or expand their businesses online. It’s nothing short of a farce at this stage."

- Press Association

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