Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has welcomed the fact that the contract for the National Broadband Plan (NBP) is being signed today, but it indicated that concerns still remain.

The representative for the Roscommon-Galway constituency raised concerns around cost, timelines, pricing and the potential recently mooted for legal challenges.

Speaking on the matter, he said: “After seven or so years, the Government is finally signing off on a contract for the National Broadband Plan – all be it at a much higher price tag than was first envisaged.

“It is expected that the plan will deliver high-speed broadband to 1.1 million people around the country, covering approximately 100,000 enterprises, 55,000 farms, 44,000 businesses and 700 schools.

“But the cost of this project cannot be allowed to spiral any further. There are already concerns that the €3 million price tag will impact other projects, though Government ministers are trying to play this down.

“People deserve the right to have access to high-speed broadband. This service has the potential to offer a new lease of life to rural parts of the country, by attracting employers and allowing people to work remotely.

“However, these people cannot be held to ransom for this service. The cost to the consumer for this high-speed broadband needs to be fair and affordable.

“As the minister himself said, this plan is to ensure that the digital revolution happening at the moment in a variety of sectors does not bypass rural Ireland.”

Delivery timeline

It is hoped that National Broadband Ireland, the company awarded the contract by Government, will begin rolling out 147,000km of fibre to homes, farms, businesses and schools across the country in the coming months.

While it is expected that it will take up to 7 years to bring high-speed broadband to 540,000 mainly rural premises as part of the project, it is thought that the majority of those will be completed within the first three years, according to reports.

Continuing, Fitzmaurice said: “This entire process has dragged out for far too long already. We first began talking about the National Broadband Plan 7 years ago.

“It has been dogged by delays ever since its inception. It cannot afford any further setbacks.

“In the past week or so, reports have suggested that some broadband operators may challenge the National Broadband Plan on state aid grounds.

“If such an event was to happen, where would that leave the plan? The people of rural Ireland cannot be forced to wait any longer for this critical service.

“While the signing of today’s contract is a welcome step forward, there is still plenty of work to be done before the people of rural Ireland will be able to reap the rewards,” Fitzmaurice concluded.

Michael Fitzmaurice – 0861914565

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