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Dublin: 4 °C Thursday 14 November, 2019
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Government set to decide whether to sign off on €3bn National Broadband Plan

The plan aims to bring high-speed internet to smaller towns and one-off homes around Ireland.

Ministers Simon Harris and Paschal Donohoe speaking to reporters in Summerhill in Dublin today.
Ministers Simon Harris and Paschal Donohoe speaking to reporters in Summerhill in Dublin today.
Image: Christina Finn

FINANCE AND PUBLIC EXPENDITURE Minister Paschal Donohoe has said he will take into account all of the advice he has received in relation to whether the government should press on with the National Broadband Plan at a cost of €3 billion. 

The National Broadband Plan, first announced in 2012, aims to bring high-speed internet to parts of the country – smaller towns and one-off homes – that are unlikely to be viable business prospects for commercial providers.

The plan has since been beset by delays and setbacks, including the withdrawal of Eir and rival broadband infrastructure giant Siro, a joint venture between Vodafone and ESB, from the bidding process.

US-based investment firm Granahan McCourt is the only firm still vying for the contract for the project, which it plans to build with a group of subcontractors. SSE had been part of its consortium, however the energy giant pulled out of the group in July.

A contract had been expected to be awarded last year, with then communications minister Denis Naughten – who eventually quit his ministerial post over a series of controversial meetings with Granahan McCourt chief David McCourt – saying the network should take three to five years to complete once the deal was signed. 

The Taoiseach has said the cost of providing high-speed broadband to 500,000 homes will be “many multiples” of what was anticipated originally, placing a figure of €3 billion on the project. 

Advice on the project

Following speculation that the government will proceed with the project, Donohoe told reporters in Dublin today that he will “be taking account of all of the advice that is given to me in relation to the National Broadband Plan”.

“It has gone through a very very extensive debate and process within my own government and with the Department of Communications,” he said, adding:

No recommendation has been taken to government yet… but that will be happening, I believe, soon and I’ll be taking account of all the advice and views on that matter when I give my views on it.
I have got a lot of different views in relation to this project but I think the imperative thing is that we allow the work that is underway in relation to the broadband plan to come to conclusion. “That will he happening and then the Cabinet will be briefed on all of the different issues in relation to it and all of the different opportunities in relation to it.

The minister said the plan that has gone now “a very extensive tendering process”, adding that the government is now aware of the many “different costs and complexities that are involved in relation to a project of this scale and because of this, Cabinet will be well informed and well placed to make a good decision on what is a really important investment in our country’s future”.

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