Belfast Telegraph

Delay in roll-out of controversial broadband plan defended

Opposition TDs accused the broadband plan of being not fit for purpose because it was almost three years since the process began.

Government officials have defended their controversial plan for broadband roll-out, insisting the heavily criticised tender process is fit for purpose.

Officials from the Department of Communications have claimed there was no other way to quicken up the process.

The stance came as they faced questions from an Oireachtas committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment on Thursday.

Opposition TDs accused the broadband plan of being not fit for purpose because it was almost three years since the process began.

In December 2015 the Government sought bidders for a contract for the delivery of high-speed nationwide broadband across the country.

Telecoms giant Eir, one of the final bidders, dropped out of the process last month leaving one bidder remaining for the contract.

Fianna Fail TD Timmy Dooley questioned whether it was acceptable that the process had taken almost three years so far and had yet to appoint a bidder.

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Fianna Fail Ard Fheis

Programme official Ciaran O hObain told the committee that the project was being well managed.

“I am absolutely satisfied with the governance of the process,” Mr O hObain said.

“The pace at which this project is being managed both in terms of the team that’s managing it and the engagement by the bidders in the process is intensive.

“But the complexity of the process and the obligation of the state in terms of getting it right are onerous.”

Mr Dooley said the people living in the 540,000 premises who are not able to get broadband would not agree.

“I don’t think they’ll understand that when you say it’s being well managed,” Mr Dooley said.

“You may be dotting all the Is and crossing all the Ts and covering everyone’s proverbial but the reality is it doesn’t seem to me to be an efficient process.”

Mr O hObain said: “I’m absolute of the view that the project is being managed in an effective manner, the team that’s behind it have the capacity to deliver it.”

Programme director Fergal Mulligan said there was no other way of handling the process and unfortunately procurement processes typically took years.

He added that the process was in the final stages.

A contract is expected to be awarded to the remaining bidder, a consortium including Enet, by the end of September.

The National Broadband Plan was first published in 2012. The state-sponsored project aims to deliver high-speed internet to every rural household and business.

The procurement process launched in 2015.

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