Irish Govt not budging from original National Broadband plan route

1 Apr 2016

The Irish Government said it is sticking to its multi-million euro EU-backed plan to connect up to 38pc of the population to high speed broadband

The Department of Communications said last night that the intervention area in the National Broadband Plan remains at 750,000 premises, despite Eir’s plans to connect 300,000 homes to 1Gbps broadband.

The issue of broadband in Ireland is a highly emotive one and it became an election issue in 2016 as many people who are unable to receive adequate broadband feel they are missing out on the social and economic opportunities provided by it.

Before Christmas, the Government began the procurement process for the €275m EU-backed plan that aims to deliver at least 30Mbps broadband to 1.8m people, or 38pc of the population not served with broadband of 21st-century quality, by 2020.

Future Human

Around the same time, Eir revealed its plans to connect 300,000 homes in broadband-deprived rural areas to its latest 1Gbps service with the first 100,000 home to be connnected by March 2017.

Such a move would require the Government to amend the rollout plan as EU state aid cannot be directed towards areas supplied by a private sector provider.

Broadband intervention area won’t be altered… just yet

But it appears the Department of Communications is sticking to its original plan as drawn up in 2015.

Five companies had applied for the first stage of the formal procurement process by the deadline of 12 noon yesterday (31 March).

The Department said that certain criteria would need to be met and a binding agreement signed before premises can be excluded from the broadband intervention area.

The Department said that so far it has assessed the commercial plans of six operators in 2015 in respect of its criteria and it has found no reason to alter its plans.

“The Department wishes to place on record that, to date, no company has satisfied all of the relevant criteria and signed a Commitment Agreement in respect of any proposed commercial plans,” the Department of Communications stated last night.

“The High-Speed Broadband Map 2020, therefore, remains as it was when published in 2015, and the intervention area, therefore, also remains at more than 750,000 premises.

“The Department is monitoring existing commercial rollout plans to ensure that all of the 1.6m premises, which commercial operators indicated they would complete by end 2016, will have access to high-speed broadband of at least 30mbps by end 2016.”

The Department of Communications said that while it does not plan to change the intervention area during the procurement process, it reserves the right to do so.

“In the event that the Department becomes aware of an increase or decrease in planned private sector investment, the department may review such changes and if it considers it appropriate, it may update the High-Speed Broadband Map 2020 and the intervention area. Any review and change to the intervention area will take account of public procurement rules as well as State Aid rules and guidelines.

“In this way, the Department aims to ensure that all commercial plans are fully assessed and validated, and that the Government’s commitment to delivering high-speed broadband to every premises in Ireland is fully realised.”

Main image via Shutterstock

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