National Broadband Plan hits another Government speed bump

National Broadband Plan hits another Government speed bump

Any chance of the Irish Government cabinet making a decision on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) this side of Easter has been put on ice.

It has emerged that there has been a fresh delay to the plan getting a rubber stamp by the cabinet.

‘I can assure you there is no intention to drag out this process’
– RICHARD BRUTON

The plan is understood to be still undergoing due diligence and will not go before cabinet tomorrow (16 April) as envisaged.

Communications Minister Richard Bruton, TD, today confirmed that the due diligence process is still being carried out and that he won’t be bringing a recommendation before cabinet in the coming days.

“The important thing is that we make this is a timely way,” Minister Bruton was quoted as saying by The Irish Times this afternoon. “I think the Taoiseach has made it clear he is not proposing that this be delayed for any significant period, but at the same time we have to be conscious that there are other affairs that are happening simultaneously, and the timing – giving Government time to give the attention to this particular decision.

“We need the space to do that so it is not going to Government tomorrow but I can assure you there is no intention to drag out this process.”

Joining the dots as an election year looms

The NBP, which was first introduced in 2012, has been dogged by stops and very few starts. The cost of the plan has ballooned from an estimated €500m to €1bn to potentially €3bn, according to various reports.

The secretary general of the Department of Communications, Mark Griffin, told the Public Accounts Committee in recent weeks that the speeds promised by the plan have increased from 30Mbps to 150Mbps across the 542,000-premises intervention area.

There is only one final bidder left and that is National Broadband Ireland, which is led by Granahan McCourt. Firms supplying this consortium include Enet, Actavo, Nokia, Kelly Group and KN Group.

The crux of the matter is whether the Government believes that such an investment is worthwhile.

Rural Ireland needs the connectivity but, with an election year looming and a public already weary from the cost overruns from the National Children’s Hospital debacle, how willing are politicians to run the gauntlet of public opinion?

Whether the Government tries to play it safe or makes a bold decision, either way connectivity to high-speed broadband will be a doorstep issue when the politicians embark on the hustings. That will be unavoidable.

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