IT WILL BE 2023 by the time the government has connected all 540,000 homes to high-speed broadband in rural Ireland.Communications Minister Denis Naughten has stated that the “network rollout will take 3-5 years following contract award” under the National Broadband Plan.
The contract is projected to be awarded this year, meaning it will take up until 2023 to connect over half a million homes and businesses covered by State intervention.
The NBP has been hit by repeated delays, having being first mooted back in 2012.
The tender process for the NBP is now at an advanced stage, with just two bidders in the frame to provide broadband to the 540,000 homes in the plan. Only Eir and Enet remain in the bidding process,
Eir has already committed to rolling out broadband to 300,000 homes, leaving 537,587 rural homes and businesses in need of State help.
The department confirmed that as of the third quarter in 2017, a total of 12,475 premises have been connected under the Eir contract. Recent reports by Eir state this figure has risen to over 14,000. The minister said this number is expected to continue to rise in coming quarterly reports.
Fianna Fáil’s Eamon Ó Cuiv has described as “appalling” the fact that it could be five years before the government manages to connect the majority of homes in rural Ireland to broadband. Mr Ó Cuív said the lack of delivery was costing jobs and creating a digital divide between urban and rural Ireland.
By the end of 2018 it is expected that 77% (1.8 million premises) will have access to high speed broadband, climbing to 90% (2.1 million premises) in 2020.
He is not the only TD to be critical of the government’s scheme. Galway-Roscommon TD Michael Fitzmaurice dubbed the rollout of broadband in rural Ireland as “a fiasco”.
He said he understands some people’s anger at the progress made, stating:
As a rural TD I am acutely aware of the frustration and anger felt by people who are without high-speed broadband in rural Ireland. These families and businesses are my focus and every day I am working hard and committed to deliver broadband to their doors through the national broadband plan which is now in the final stages of the procurement process.
He said when he entered into office in May 2016, 1.2million (52%) premises in Ireland could access high-speed broadband. Today that figure has risen to almost 7 out of 10 premises with access to high-speed broadband, he said. Within a year that will rise to nearly eight out of ten premises and by 2020 nine out of ten premises or 90% of premises, the length and breadth of the country will have access to high-speed broadband.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the government will invest in broadband this year, stating:
Their target is to have 75% of homes in the country connected to high-speed broadband by the end of 2018. We currently stand at 60% now. This month the Taoiseach will publish the ten-year capital plan, which will be adding up to €100 billion investment.
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