Comms Minister rejects National Broadband Plan review

7 Feb 2018

Image: asharkyu/Shutterstock

First came the roads, then the water and electricity, and now broadband is coming to rural Ireland, says defiant Naughten.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten, TD, last night (6 February) rejected a Fianna Fáil motion seeking a review of the contract process for the National Broadband Plan.

The motion came after Eir last week walked away from the process, just months after Siro – the ESB-Vodafone joint venture – did the same. This left only one bidder in the race: the Enet-SSE consortium. The whole saga has become something of a political hot potato.

‘Standing on the eve of delivering an historic project for the economic development of rural Ireland, I do not intend to allow politics to push this procurement process out further’

Naughten said that such a review would delay any start of the roll-out of broadband until 2019 at the earliest, preventing 540,000 homes and businesses from accessing critical 21st-century infrastructure.

“Just as roads came, and then electricity, the Government is determined that broadband will be delivered. And it will leave a lasting legacy across rural Ireland,” Naughten said.

Rejecting the motion for review, he said: “Firstly, this suggests the remaining bidder – the consortium comprising of [sic] Enet-SSE, Granahan McCourt and John Laing plc – is not a suitable bidder?

“This is a group with significant international experience across the telecoms, engineering and infrastructure sectors. SSE is as big an electricity company as the ESB, and Enet has a long history in relation to operating fibre networks. Granahan McCourt is a major investor in the telecoms area.

“Secondly, the fact is that the Fianna Fáil review would push this procurement process into 2019 and plunge the entire project into uncertainty.”

Rural Ireland needs speed faster than light

Naughten said that it would take at least six months to assemble the international panel of experts to conduct such a review, not the two months set out in the Fianna Fáil motion, and such a committee would have to evaluate 25 months worth of material.

Naughten said that those who have worked on the project from day one include international experts such as: Analysys Mason, PwC, Deloitte, Marsh Insurance, Mason Hayes & Curran, RPS Group, KPMG, and Here and Now Business Intelligence.

“Yes, for commercial reasons, two companies have pulled out – but also remember, for commercial reasons, we have seen the build-out of broadband across this country. The National Broadband Plan has been the catalyst for this massive investment.”

“When I became Minister 21 months ago, five out of 10 premises had access to high-speed broadband; today, that is now seven out of 10. By the end of this year, it will be close to eight out of 10 and it also means that the vast majority of villages across Ireland will have access up to 1,000Mbps high-speed broadband by the end of this year – that is something that couldn’t have been contemplated 21 months ago.

“This solution is considered by industry to be the most future-proofed technology and the most capable of meeting future demands. There is nothing faster than light.”

Naughten suggested it was time for the members of the Dáil to work together to ensure vital infrastructure is delivered to the people that the parliament represents.

“Standing on the eve of delivering an historic project for the economic development of rural Ireland, I do not intend to allow politics to push this procurement process out further,” he said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years