Heather Humphreys to decide which towns will be prioritised for better broadband

A contract for the high-speed service is due to be signed by June 2017

Minister for Regional Development Heather Humphreys will oversee the rollout of the national broadband plan once a contract for the service has been signed, it has been confirmed.

Independent TD and Minister for Communications Denis Naughten told Newstalk Breakfast that his department would instead take charge of dealing with bidders.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny caused confusion earlier this month when he announced that rural broadband would form part of Ms Humphreys’ newly-created portfolio.

The Department of Communications, which had responsibility for the area up until that point, has since been unclear about its role in the plan.

But Mr Naughten confirmed this morning that his department would continue to look after the awarding of the service contract, which is scheduled to be signed by June 2017.

Meanwhile, he said, the Department of Regional Development will liaise with local authorities to deal with issues around licensing, access and planning permission.

Ms Humphreys will also be charged with deciding which towns are to be prioritised under the scheme, he said.

Mr Naughten added that a local internet hub such as a community centre could be established in some areas to provide local broadband access before the full rollout is complete.

In the meantime, both ministers will work on the shorter-term project of tackling poor mobile phone coverage, he said.

The government has committed to ensuring 85% of Irish households have access to high-speed broadband within two years of a contract being signed.

The Department of Communications last month announced that the plan, which was originally due to be completed by the end of 2020, would be delayed by six months.