Broadband plan fiasco is ‘a major setback’ for rural areas

Sinn Fein’s spokesperson on rural affairs, Martin Kenny, has described SSE’s recent decision to pull out of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) as a “major setback for rural development”.

Deputy Kenny said: “The programme for Government promised high-speed broadband that would be delivered to every home and business in the country with 85% delivered in two years and 100% within five years.”

Kenny expressed his concern that after two years, the contract is “yet to be allocated” to a company.

This is a major setback for rural Ireland as high-speed broadband is a key element of infrastructure for any business.

‘Neglected’

Kenny outlined that although the Government promised not to leave any town, village or parish behind, he believes the reality is that towns and villages in his constituency of Sligo, Leitrim, north Roscommon and south Donegal are being left behind and neglected as a result.

The current Government plan is not achievable and the only company that can deliver high-speed fibre is ESB Networks, which is state owned.

Kenny called on the Government to “stop making highfalutin announcements” and for it to follow through on the promises it made in the programme for Government.

“Rural Ireland needs high-speed broadband now and the Government must deliver it,” concluded deputy Kenny.

‘On track’

However, the Government has insisted that the National Broadband Plan is still on course, despite the decisions by the ESB, Vodafone under the banner of SIRO, Eir, and SSE to withdraw from the project over the course of the last year.

Speaking yesterday, the Minister of State for Rural Affairs, Sean Kyne, told RTE that the final tender for the project will be announced this autumn.

“I believe we are fully on track to the commitment given by Minister [Denis] Naughten earlier in the year, that we will have the final tender in the autumn and that we will be assessing it with a view to signing a contract as soon as possible,” he said.

Final bid

Meanwhile, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment outlined that it is in the “final stages” of the procurement process.

In a statement, it said: “The NBP remains on track, with a final bid expected from the Enet consortium in the coming weeks. It is intended the procurement process will reach a conclusion shortly thereafter.

“The Enet consortium has reaffirmed its commitment to the NBP and timelines around the procurement process. A formal notification from the consortium with regard to structural changes is awaited.”