Eir’s decision to withdraw from broadband procurement process ‘regrettable’

The decision by eir to withdraw from the National Broadband Plan (NBP) procurement process has been described as “regrettable” by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten.

Minister Naughten explained that the NBP procurement process is a key priority for Government and is being managed intensively by a specialist National Broadband Procurement Team in his department.

Commenting on recent developments, the minister said: “One bidder, Eircom Limited (eir), has formally communicated to my department that it is withdrawing from the procurement process.

“I understand their decision is driven by ‘commercial, regulatory and governance’ issues. This decision is ultimately a commercial matter for eir.

The NBP procurement process was launched in December 2015 and eir actively engaged with the process since then. The company invested significant time and resources to the process and their withdrawal from the process at this late stage is regrettable.

“Currently eir is rolling out high-speed broadband, predominantly fibre to the home (FTTH), to over 300,000 premises in rural Ireland,” he said.

Minister Naughten explained that the roll-out is the subject of a binding agreement, whereby eir has committed to building high-speed broadband infrastructure to serve these 300,000 premises.

He added that eir has “reconfirmed its commitment to this commercial investment, as well as their ongoing investment in broadband nationally”.

Remaining bidder

Continuing, the minister said: “The remaining bidder in the procurement process – the consortium comprising of Granahan McCourt, enet, SSE, John Laing Group plc – has reaffirmed its commitment to the successful conclusion of the NBP process.

My department will continue to engage intensively with all relevant stakeholders to ensure the earliest possible achievement of the Government’s objective of providing reliable, high-quality, high-speed broadband to all premises in Ireland.

“When the procurement process reaches a satisfactory conclusion for Government, a contract will be awarded and the network roll-out will commence.”

‘Serious concern’

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein TD for Offaly Carol Nolan has expressed serious concern over eir’s withdrawal from the Government’s broadband scheme.

This comes months prior to the commencement of a state subsidised scheme to bring high-speed broadband to 450,000 homes and businesses in rural Ireland, she added.

Deputy Nolan is of the opinion that this development casts serious doubts over the Government’s ability to deliver for rural Ireland and raises questions about their communications strategy.

She has called on the Minister for Rural Affairs and Community Development, Michael Ring, to intervene immediately and to play his part in delivering on the Government’s commitment to provide high-speed broadband in rural Ireland.

Concluding, the Sinn Fein TD said: “Prompt and decisive action from Government is required in order to address the ongoing problem concerning the absence of high-speed broadband in rural Ireland.”