Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s decision to allocate responsibility for the provision of rural broadband to Rural Affairs Minister Heather Humphreys led to confusion as to whether her department or the Department for Communications had ultimate responsibility for the plan.
Newly appointed Communications Minister Denis Naughten sought to clarify the issue this week, claiming “the weight of two departments is being brought to bear on the plan”.
In a departure from the understanding Ms Humphreys’ department had assumed onus for the NBP, Mr Naughten went on to say his department “will continue with the procurement for a high speed telecoms network, and will develop proposals for an entity to manage all the State’s Broadband contracts”.
Ms Humphreys will be responsible for ensuring the rollout can be delivered quickly once the contract or contracts are in place, he added.
A national mobile phone and broadband taskforce is to be set up to examine temporary measures to alleviate “service deficits”.
Ms Humphreys will also work with local authorities, Local Enterprise Offices and other relevant agencies to help accelerate the build-out of the rural broadband network, Mr Naughten said.
Fianna Fáil regional development spokesperson Éamon Ó Cuív has called on the Taoiseach to clear the issue up once and for all and put an end to the “turf war” that could further delay the NBP rollout.
“The roll out of a high speed broadband service should be one of the top priorities for this Government. However, the fact that responsibility for the project appears to be falling between two departments is an extremely worrying development.
I am extremely concerned this could result in major communications problems and a completely disjointed strategy.
“Government departments do not have a great track record when it comes to joined up thinking and the fact the National Broadband Plan now appears to be falling between Communications and Regional Development sounds alarm bells.
"What we need is a coherent and workable plan which falls entirely under the remit of one minister, who can take full ownership of the project.
“The Taoiseach needs to urgently clarify the situation and ensure that the National Broadband Plan is pursued. We cannot run the risk of it falling through the cracks,” Mr Ó Cuív said.