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EU approves state aid for €3bn National Broadband Plan

The decision means the contract for the €3 billion plan can be signed.

Image: Shutterstock/Valentyn Volkov

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION has granted state aid approval to the National Broadband Plan.

The decision means that the contract for the €3bn plan can be signed by National Broadband Ireland, which was awarded the contract for the project in May.

The plan aims to bring high-speed internet to more than 540,000 homes, farms and businesses across rural Ireland.

The Commission approved the proposals after assessing the planned measures under EU state aid rules, particularly broadband guidelines dating from 2013.

In a statement this morning, it said that public funding for the plan would result in high-speed broadband services being brought to areas with insufficient internet connectivity in Ireland.

“The National Broadband Plan in Ireland is expected to address the significant digital divide between urban and rural areas in Ireland, enabling Irish consumers and businesses to benefit from the full potential of digital growth,” Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

“This will help households and businesses in areas of Ireland where private investment is insufficient.”

The Commission’s decision was welcomed by Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton.

“Today’s decision from the Commission allows the government to proceed towards signing the National Broadband Plan contract with National Broadband Ireland which will commence the roll out of 147,000km of fibre to homes, farms, businesses and schools across our country,” he said.

The plan has been beset by delays and setbacks, including the withdrawal of a number of firms from the bidding process, as well as controversy over the selection of the winning consortium for the contract Granahan McCourt.

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A contract had been expected to be awarded last year, but former communications minister Denis Naughten quit his ministerial post after revelations about a series of meetings with Granahan McCourt chief David McCourt.

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