Belfast Telegraph

Minister to consider findings of scathing broadband report

Richard Bruton said the tender process was subject to a rigorous process which started in 2015.

Communications Minister Richard Bruton said he will not ignore the findings of the Oireachtas Committee.
Communications Minister Richard Bruton said he will not ignore the findings of the Oireachtas Committee.

By Cate McCurry, PA

The Communications Minister has said he will not ignore the findings in a scathing report on the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

But Richard Bruton added that continuing with the 2.9 billion euro deal is “the right thing to do”.

An Oireachtas committee compiled a report into the NPB and found that the delivery was “flawed”.

It recommended the Government should commission an external independent review and that the Comptroller and Auditor General should have a role in identifying cost overruns.

It also recommended that all infrastructure should remain in public ownership.

It's absolutely essential that 1.1 million Irish people are never left behind in terms of access to a technology that is transformative and really underpins rural competitiveness Richard Bruton

Speaking in Dublin on Thursday, Mr Bruton said broadband is an important lifeline for rural Ireland.

“I believe it’s absolutely essential that 1.1 million Irish people are never left behind in terms of access to a technology that is transformative and really underpins rural competitiveness,” he said.

“So I believe that this is the right thing to go ahead with this deal. We have appointed a preferred bidder.

“Of course, we have to do due diligence before we signed contracts, that due diligence is on the way.”

The minister said he will study the recommendations in the 36-page report before going back to Government.

He also said the tender process was subject to a rigorous process which started in 2015.

“It was accompanied by a very complex set of committees who oversaw that work, there was independent evaluation and expertise brought in in all of the critical areas around the technology, around the financial evaluation, around the options of public or private ownership,” he added.

“If there was any of that process to change, you would have to abandon the tender and start all over again, that would involve a five-year waste of people to get access to broadband, which I believe is crucial to rural Ireland.

“We’ve had a number of people who were part of the tendering process earlier on proffering views about the process.

“But they had their opportunity to submit their plans, only one remains, that application has been subject to intense scrutiny.

“We are very advanced in a tender process and some of the proposals that the committee have put forward would represent total abandonment of that process.”

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Heather Humphreys (Brian Lawless/PA)

Heather Humphreys said broadband is “essential” to rural businesses.

Speaking outside Dublin Castle, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation said: “If we are going to have balanced regional development, it is absolutely essential.

“I get requests on a daily basis from people who can’t get high-speed broadband. They tell me how it’s impacting on their businesses.

“We don’t need delays, we need to roll this broadband out as quickly as possible and I absolutely support Minister Bruton on what he is trying to do here, because if you’re speaking to the businesses I speak to, you would understand that they really do need this as soon as possible.”

PA

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