Eir’s projected costs for the National Broadband Plan are becoming more confusing by the day. Its dramatic recent intervention, promising to provide the service for €1bn, has forced the Government to think again about the rollout of a service that was set to cost €2.9bn.
After they made public this suggestion, the Taoiseach questioned in the Dáil why its indicative bid, made before it dropped out of the tendering process, was €2.75bn. In response, Eir argued that the higher figure was driven by strict conditions imposed by the Government for providing the service but that it was confident it could do it for €1bn.
However, a letter from Eir to the Government says the level of taxpayer funding now needed by the company to complete the plan could be at least €1.5bn. Eir initially bid almost €3bn for the NBP contract before withdrawing from the tendering process.
Then it said it could do it for one third of that figure but now says it will need at least 50% more than that. Nevertheless that is still substantially cheaper than its original estimate. Eir may, indeed, be able to provide a national broadband service at a considerable discount but it needs to show in detail how that can be achieved.
If it does that, its proposal deserves serious consideration. If not, with its credibility at stake, critics may conclude that these latest proposals are a load of hot Eir.