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Telecoms group concerned about Eir's €1bn claim and will consider legal action against the Irish government

Eir’s CEO told an Oireachtas committee recently that it could deliver the NBP for less than €1 billion.

Image: Shutterstock/Peter Gudella

A GROUP REPRESENTING a number of telecommunications companies has warned the government that it would make a complaint to the European Commission if there were any changes to the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

In a letter to Minister for Communications Richard Bruton, the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators (ALTO), stated it had concerns about the “latest intervention” from Eir. 

Eir’s CEO told an Oireachtas committee that it could deliver the NBP for less than €1 billion. The Department of Communications and Eir have exchanged correspondence about the claim. 

However, Eir CEO Carolyn Lennon has since stated that she was “surprised” that evidence given before committee was seen by the government as an offer.

The group said Eir’s claim was an “attempt to reopen the public procurement process having previously withdrawn”. 

ALTO’s membership includes from BT Ireland, Sky Ireland, Colt Telecom, Magnet Networks, Siro, 3 Ireland, ESB Telecoms, Verizon and Vodafone. 

National Broadband Ireland, the company that has been selected to roll out broadband to rural Ireland, as well as Eir, are not members of the group. 

The telecoms group said in the letter that the “behaviour of a dominant player such as Eir, tacitly interfering in a social policy measure that is pro-consumer and pro-competition and recognises the need to protect the State (and taxpayers’) investment could have untold reputational and distortionary market impacts if the Government decides to either pause or scrap the NBP intervention as a consequence”.

The letter goes on to state that ALTO will consider whether it is appropriate to
bring such a matter to the attention of the European Commission for further investigation.

The group urged the government not to give it any further consideration despite what it said were “acute and clear political pressures”.

It added that it did not believe the latest intervention by Eir is “credible” and questioned the impact of the offer being considered. 

“What is to stop any company making similar ovations, all the while based on entirely hypothetical models?” states the letter.

ALTO said it is “extremely concerned” that if the government was to further delay
the process, that the NBP intervention “will not only stall permanently but runs the risk
that significant damage will be done to Irish telecommunications investment community observing that a process could be derailed by such a late, arbitrary, non-compliant and unsubstantiated offer from an external stakeholder whose commercial interests are probably best served by such an outcome”. 

It also warned that its members may turn to litigation should the procurement process be re-opened on the back of Eir’s claim. 

ALTO said its members believe “it would be a travesty for rural Ireland if Eir’s late intervention were to disrupt its advancement”. 

Reacting to the letter, a spokesperson for Eir told The Irish Independent that “we’re not interfering, we were asked a question by the Oireachtas Committee. We’re a little surprised that Alto is against that type of transparency”.

TheJournal.ie has contacted Eir for comment. 

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