BT Ireland is “frustrated” and “disappointed” by the delay in the rollout of the National Broadband Plan, which it claims is due to rival Eir “chopping and changing” its plans.
Last month, the Department of Communications announced the latest setback to the plan, which will see the delivery of high-speed broadband to thousands of homes and businesses delayed by six months or so.
Previously, Eir announced plans to provide broadband to 300,000 rural premises that were set to be covered by the National Broadband Plan.
BT Ireland managing director Shay Walsh said: “I think the issue really is that the fact that Eir have chopped and changed in terms of what they’re going to roll out themselves and, ultimately the National Broadband Scheme, by its very definition, has to cover literally, building by building, buildings that are not economically viable for the incumbent to deliver to.
“When the incumbent starts to chop and change their mind as to whether they’re interested in rolling it out or not, it ultimately impacts the number of sites that are in the two lots and that ultimately has a direct impact on the commercial viability of who’s rolling it out.
“So for example, Eir are now saying they’re going to go and deliver to 300,000 of those 770,000 homes and premises around the country.”
Mr Walsh said Eir’s expanded rollout plans would have “a massive impact” and leave a “harder pool of premises” that are more expensive to reach for the successful bidder or bidders.
“If you’ve got a bigger pool, some of which has less cost to implement, then you’ve got more to play with and you’re not hitting the taxpayer for all of it, but if all that’s left is the largely uneconomical ones then it’s a bigger leap of faith for any provider to go in and do that, said Mr Walsh.
BT is “supporting” two bidders involved in the National Broadband Plan, said Mr Walsh.
Eir said Mr Walsh was “quite wrong” to attribute the delay in the rollout to the company.
“The Department of Communications confirmed that the delay — measured in months — is due to process delays and the department was quite clear in its explanation,” said Eir.
“The process introduced by the [department] is extremely complex, which is probably to do with the high threshold for getting State aid approval. Without State aid, the project cannot proceed.
“We have been very clear in our ambitions for Ireland — we want to bring high-speed broadband to as many homes and businesses across Ireland as possible as quickly as possible and we are delivering on that.”
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