Minister’s comments suggest National Broadband Plan delayed again

4 Jul 2017

Image: JFs Pic Factory/Shutterstock

Once again, the completion of the National Broadband Plan is expected to be delayed by at least a year, seven years after it was promised.

In another blow to establishing a nationwide broadband network – including 542,000 rural homes – the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten, TD, revealed in the Dáil last week that yet another delay is expected in its roll-out.

The Minister said it was likely that completion of the National Broadband Plan will not be seen for at least another year.

Future Human

In explaining what was holding up the process – seven years after it was scheduled to be completed – Naughten said that the State would be unlikely to connect any homes until Eir completes its own private rural broadband roll-out.

Eir took up the task of connecting 300,000 rural homes to broadband in April of this year, agreeing to take on some of the responsibility from the Government.

The telecoms firm – currently undergoing its own restructuring in an expected bid to float on the stock exchange – is expecting to complete this plan by the end of 2018.

However, in a statement to The Irish Times, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment denied that there would be any change in the timeline it had set out. It did not make any comment about the Minister’s statement in the Dáil and whether he was wrong to say there would be a delay.

‘Beyond a joke now’

All of this means that many citizens in rural areas of Ireland will not see broadband in their home until the middle of the next decade, during which time the State is expected to pay in the region of €600m for its completion in 2024.

Meanwhile, the Government opposition has not held back in its response to Naughten’s comments, with Fianna Fáil’s communications spokesperson, Timmy Dooley, saying the National Broadband Plan is “beyond a joke now”.

“For the next 77 weeks, it will be the households that Eir are connecting on a commercial basis that will be prioritised, and not the households that have no hope of ever being connected via a normal commercial connection,” he said.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic