Where to now for the National Broadband Plan (NBP), Ireland, and more importantly rural Ireland? With 74% of the country having a broadband service, there are 542,000 homes and businesses left without an adequate service. The present high-speed broadband plan was first announced by Fine Gael in their 2011 manifesto; three Ministers for Communications later, and a few dinners thrown in for good measure, progress remains slow. The decision is now in the hands of the Government, which now has sight of a report compiled by Peter Smith, on whether or not the NBP has been compromised. The findings of the report appear to indicate that the tendering process has not been compromised by the relationship which evolved between Minister Denis Naughten and David McCourt, a key figure in a US investment firm, and the only remaining consortium bidding for the NBP contract.
In 2015, the preferred bidders were reduced from five to three. The remaining bidders comprised of; 1. Eir, 2. Siro: ESB Networks-Vodafone, and 3. ENET: Granahan, John Laing Plc, and the Irish Infrastructure Fund, SSE (SSE pulled out of the consortium in July 2018). By July 2018, all but the remaining ENET consortium players had pulled out of the bidding process.
Having spent 275-million-euro so far, the Government claims they intend to see the NBP through. Despite initial estimates putting the total cost of the NBP at half-a-billion-euro, it is currently estimated that the plan could cost three-billion-euro to implement. The NBP may yet have a journey to run, so, rural businesses, farmers, workers, and families may have to continue to suffer because of an out of touch Government not keeping pace with the investment needed in an economy which is growing and changing by the day.
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