The Government is gravely concerned over spiralling costs of the National Broadband Plan, with a ‘plan B’ being drawn up in case of a total collapse.
The fallout from the resignation of former Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten, TD, continues to expand as The Irish Times reports that the Government is giving serious consideration to the idea that the entire National Broadband Plan (NBP) might collapse.
Officials are believed to be working on a ‘plan B’ contingency in case of such an event as it is becoming increasingly likely that the project will be significantly more expensive than originally planned.
While an exact figure has not been reported, it is estimated the final cost could be close to – if not more than – €3bn, making it six times more expensive than the original estimate of €500m.
Since Naughten’s resignation earlier this month over his frequent contact with the head of NBP consortium Enet, David McCourt from Granahan McCourt, any decisions on the NBP are currently paused ahead of an assessment from an independent auditor.
This report, expected to be presented to the Department of the Taoiseach in the two weeks’ time, could decide the plan’s fate and potentially lead to it being scrapped.
What are the backup options?
In a statement, the Government said it remained committed to “providing high-speed broadband to every home, business and farm across Ireland” but confirmed it will only make a decision on NBP’s future after the report.
“At that point, if concluded satisfactorily, a recommendation will go to Government and a decision will be taken. This will include consideration of costs. The Government has made no such decision at this point,” it added.
However, senior officials in the Government do envision some other backup options should the plan be considered poisoned by the affair, including the possibility that semi-State companies such as ESB or EirGrid could take up the reins.
Another possibility would be to simply re-tender the project nationally, or even on a local or regional level.
These officials did say that they aim to have “shovels in the ground” by 2019 and remain committed to rolling out broadband across rural Ireland.