Concern over National Broadband Plan as SSE reportedly pulls out

Fianna Fáil says its likely no contract will be in place by 2020

Opposition parties are warning that the State-backed National Broadband Plan is now under threat.

It comes after SSE reportedly pulled out of the Enet consortium – the only group still left bidding for the project.

It comes after Eir, Vodafone and ESB previously withdrew from the same process earlier this year. 

When the Government launched the project six years ago, it pledged to deliver broadband to every home in the country by 2020.

Process

Fianna Fáil communications spokesperson Timmy Dooley believes it's now likely no contract will be signed by then – with the 540,000 homeowners and businesses across rural Ireland set to be hit hard by the news.

He said the process to date has been so “convoluted and bureaucratic that every major commercial player has not felt comfortable continuing.”

“It seems to me that these big companies who invest in less risky ventures have decided at this stage that it is not in their interest,” he said.

“As such the real sufferers are the 540,000 homes and businesses dotted through rural Ireland who see broadband as an essential service and are now wondering when – if ever – they will see the rollout of the State-backed plan.”

The Communications Minister Denis Naughten, 10-10-2017. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Future plans

He called on Communications Minister to outline when he became aware of the SSE decision and what he intends to do about it.

He said the Government has “failed to deliver” on a private members motion passed by the Dáil in February calling for a full independent expert review of the tendering process for the plan.

“When Eir pulled out, I, and many others, questioned the viability and suitability of continuing with the existing process,” he said.

“The Minister poured scorn repeatedly on our position, but nothing since then has increased my confidence in the deliverability of the National Broadband Plan as currently conceived.

“We need to hear from the Minister as to his next steps to ensure that the over half a million homes, businesses and farms get a quality broadband connection at a fair price.”

Deputy Dooley called on the Minister to engage with international companies and “try to put in place a tendering process that can be done quickly” and “identify a company that has the capacity to roll out this broadband network.”

The Enet consortium said it remains committed to Ireland and the Government’s policy of delivering a high-speed rural broadband network.