Communications panel to probe broadband bid

Communications Minister Denis Naughten will today face the first of two public hearings over how a consortium involving businessman Denis O’Brien became the only bidder for the Government’s national broadband plan.

Communications panel to probe broadband bid

Communications Minister Denis Naughten will today face the first of two public hearings over how a consortium involving businessman Denis O’Brien became the only bidder for the Government’s national broadband plan.

Mr Naughten will be at a communications committee meeting taking place just days after the Public Accounts Committee (OAC) agreed to examine the tendering process. Mr Naughten will be asked to clarify how just one consortium was left to bid for the plan.

While the consortium involved is meeting all legal requirements in order to bid for the contract, a number of TDs and senators on the committee have said they will specifically ask Mr Naughten about businessman Mr O’Brien’s involvement in the deal.

The move follows the PAC’s decision last week to back calls from the committee’s Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy to examine the broadband tendering process due to the involvement of the consortium in the deal.

While no concerns have been raised about the individual firms involved in the process, Ms Murphy said last week she would like the PAC to examine the tendering itself, as “it is absolutely fair to point out that the entire tendering process has substantially changed since it first began”.

Earlier this month, it was confirmed that Mr O’Brien’s company Actavo, formerly known as Siteserv, had joined the only consortium — led by Granahan McCourt — left bidding for the plan.

Meanwhile, today’s meeting is also expected to be dominated by calls from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to potentially increase RTE public funding - in part through the TV licence fee by €30m a year.

The meeting will also hear renewed requests to bring Facebook and potentially the data protection commissioner back into the committee for another meeting after the social media firm’s latest data breach last week.

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