The decision by the Government to extend the National Broadband Plan to an additional 170,000 premises will not significantly increase the cost of the scheme, the department responsible has claimed.
The Department of Communications said it had taken the decision to extend the scheme after intensive consultation with commercial companies since January which raised “significant concerns” over the ability of commercial operators to deliver service commitments on time.
Those concerns forced the department to add 170,000 premises to the 757,000 its plan already covered in order to “take account of commercial telecoms’ investment which has not materialised and for which the department does not have any concrete alternative investment plans from the sector”.
A spokesperson said that communications Minister Denis Naughten did not anticipate that the extension of the intervention area would “add to the timeline to complete the procurement process or add significantly to the cost of the intervention”.
The department announced its intention this week to privatise the network as it would reduce the overall cost to the State and ensure a quicker delivery of the scheme.
The decision has been heavily criticised by opposition TDs with Fianna Fáil communications spokesperson Timmy Dooley yesterday labelling it “a serious mistake”.
It is planned that the contract, or contracts, for the broadband plan will be awarded by June 2017.
Three bidders are now vying for the contract(s) after the department overlooked bids from Imagine and Gigabit Fibre.
The remaining bidders are Eir; the ESB/ Vodafone joint venture Siro; and Enet which manages the country’s metropolitan area networks on behalf of the State.
The extension of the plan announced this week isn’t the first time confusion has arisen over the size of the project. Eir has previously pledged to provide broadband to 300,000 of the 757,000 premises initially included in the plan.
However, having analysed Eir’s proposals, the department decided to continue with its initial plans.
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