Belfast Telegraph

Broadband rollout labelled ‘absolutely farcical’ in Dail

Eir dropped out from the national broadband tender process – leaving Enet as the only bidder remaining.

A government scheme to roll out broadband across Ireland has been branded “absolutely farcical”.

Fianna Fail’s Timmy Dooley heavily criticised the Communication Minister Denis Naughten in the Dail following the drop out of Eir from the national broadband tender process leaving only one bidder remaining.

Mr Naughten confirmed Eir’s decision on Wednesday.

Mr Dooley said: “Minister Naughten amazingly has welcomed the clarity brought about by the withdrawal of Eir.

“What cyber galaxy is Minister Naughten living in? The situation is absolutely farcical at this stage.

“There is no guarantee at all that a deal can be arrived at or the deal proposed will remain viable for the 25 years of the contact.”

The National Broadband Plan aims to give 750,000 homes and businesses nationwide a minimum download speed of 30Mbps.

About 540,000 properties across the country remain without broadband access.

The government had placed a tender out for the remainder of the process, and two bidders were in the mix – Eir and Enet.

Mr Dooley said the plan had effectively collapsed, adding: “When Vodafone and ESB pulled out of this particular process it should have raised a red fag in the department concerned, but it didn’t.

“The withdrawal of Eir should have signalled a crisis with the process but it has not.”

Tanaiste Simon Coveney defended the process insisting the Government was acutely aware of the need for broadband in rural Ireland.

Mr Coveney said 80 people were working to ensure the roll-out continued, and the Government was finalising the contract with the last remaining bidder – a consortium led by energy group SEE and telecoms firm Enet.

“We are going to see this through,” Mr Coveney said.

“It has been complex and difficult but we were only months away from approving a preferred bidder anyway before September.

“That has essentially been fast forwarded now.”

The contract is expected to be completed by September.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin did not accept the Tanaiste’s rationale, saying: “The notion that the minister would portray the latest development as a good thing is delusional at best, cynical at worse.”

Eir chief executive Richard Moat said the company withdrew because the process became increasingly onerous and the business case did not stack up.

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