The European Commission has granted state aid approval for the National Broadband Plan (NBP), Minister Richard Bruton has said.

Welcoming the decision, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment said: “Today’s decision from the commission allows the Government to proceed towards signing the NBP contract with National Broadband Ireland (NBI).”

Minister Bruton said that this would “commence the roll out of 147,000km of fibre to homes, farms, businesses and schools across our country”.

The NBP will deliver high-speed broadband to 1.1 million people, almost one quarter of our country.

“Without high-speed broadband it will be significantly more difficult to attract new jobs to rural areas and develop new enterprise opportunities and it will be more difficult to retain the jobs that currently exist in these areas,” the minister observed.

“High-speed broadband will allow remote working, which can ease congestion and reduce emissions. It will ensure that the digital revolution happening in education, healthcare, farming and tourism does not bypass rural Ireland. We will make sure that rural Ireland is not left behind,” Minister Bruton concluded.

The Government appointed NBI as the preferred bidder for the NBP in May 2019. Since then, officials have been “performing the necessary financial and contractual due diligence work needed before a contract can be concluded”.

This work is progressing, according to statement from Minister Bruton’s department.

The NBP will cover: 1.1 million people; around 100,000 enterprises (comprising 54,566 farms and 44,000 businesses); 695 schools; and 96% of the country’s land area.