Will Eir’s broadband plan be rejected by the State?
Eir’s ambitious plan to roll out high-speed connections to rural areas has not met the State’s criteria and is likely to be rejected, The Irish Times reported today (1 July).
The €1bn plan was proposed as an alternative to the €5bn National Broadband Plan (NBP). In Oireachtas committee hearings on the plan last week, Eir CEO Carolan Lennon made the claim that the company could roll out broadband at this reduced price tag, which reflects the original projected spend on the plan. Lennon said that if the Government did not proceed with signing the NBP contract it currently has with Granahan McCourt, Eir would be interested.
The claim raised eyebrows from commentators who noted that Eir’s previous submissions for the contract ran in the cost range of multiple billions. The Government said at the time that it was happy to review the details of this plan, which Eir sent in last Friday (28 June).
However, a spokesperson for the Department has said that the plan failed to satisfy key criteria related to State aid, transparency, access to the network for commercial providers, State clawbacks for profit, and risk-sharing.
“The Department will respond comprehensively to this letter, but from an initial consideration and comments made in the [Communications] committee, it is clear that this new approach has not met the above conditions,” the spokesperson said. She also noted that restructuring the plan would add a delay of between three and five years for the rural broadband roll-out.
The spokesperson added that Eir has “explicitly stated that its letter is not a formal letter seeking to replace the current NBP process” and noted that the company has previously withdrawn from the procurement process.
The Oireachtas committee will hear from Department officials on Wednesday (3 July). It is expected that they will address the Eir plan in these meetings.