Broadband plan rollout ‘three to five years’ away

The rollout of the long-awaited National Broadband Plan (NBP) will take “three to five years” after a contract is awarded to a bidder, Communications Minister, Denis Naughten, has said.

The tender process for the NBP is now at an advanced stage, with two bidders in the frame, writes Pádraig Hoare.

Communications Minister, Denis Naughten

In reply to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fáil TD, Éamon Ó Cuív, Minister Naughten said that although the NBP contract had not yet been awarded, it has been a “catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector”, so that two-thirds of 2.3m premises have access to high-speed broadband.

“This is set to increase to 77% by the end of 2018 and to 90% by the end of 2020,” Minister Naughten claimed.

He said he recognised the “frustration experienced across Ireland” over the slow pace of the NBP’s rollout.

Mr Ó Cuív slammed the Government, over its lack of progress on the NBP’s delivery.

“It’s almost impossible to believe that more than a decade after the NBP was first launched, thousands of premises in rural Ireland will still not have a high-speed broadband connection.

"The roll-out of the NBP, by successive Fine Gael-led governments, has been a disaster. They have repeatedly missed their own deadlines for delivery and kicked the can down the road in the run-up to elections,” he said.

The NBP has been beset by delays since 2012. Some 540,000 homes will be included in the plan. Only Eir and Enet remain in the bidding process, after ESB and Vodafone joint-venture, Siro, pulled out late last year.

Mr Ó Cuív said the lack of delivery was costing jobs and creating a digital divide between urban and rural Ireland.

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