The National Broadband Plan is set to be rolled out within the next eight weeks, after the Government formally signed the contract for the programme this morning, Tuesday, November 19.

The plan will see some 300 establishments – such as community centres, schools, library hubs and local GAA halls – in every county connected to high speed broadband during 2020, as will as private premises, farms and businesses.

A statement from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment said: “The contract signing today means all of rural Ireland will get the same access to opportunities offered by high-speed broadband as those in urban areas.”

Commenting on the finalisation of the contract – which has been agreed with National Broadband Ireland – Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “This contract means that every home, school, farm and business in Ireland will get access to high speed broadband.

No part of the country will be left behind in securing the jobs and opportunities of the future. And as we know, the future is already here in our daily lives with online access offering ever more opportunities for living and working.

“Broadband will be the biggest investment in rural Ireland ever. We can have more people working from home, a better work-life balance, fewer car journeys, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. We can connect better with the world, with family members, with business, with new ideas and new ways of doing things,” the Taoiseach added.

He continued: “Every school in the country…will be able to access digital technologies for teaching, while healthcare professionals can check in and monitor patients remotely no matter where they are based.”

Meanwhile, Minister Richard Bruton said: “Today is a historic day for rural Ireland. By guaranteeing high speed broadband for every home, business and farm in the country, we are ensuring no one is left behind.

This will have a transformative impact on rural Ireland, opening up opportunities in enterprise, health and ‘smart farming’ to name a few – high speed broadband is increasingly becoming a vital utility and today the government is securing access for every person in the country.

The area covered by the National Broadband Plan includes: 1.1 million homes; around 100,000 enterprises; 54,566 farms; 44,000 businesses; 695 schools; and around 96% of the country’s land area.

In total, some 540,000 premises are to be connected through the plan by 2026, with 10,000 connected by the end of 2020.

The €3 billion cost to the state for the plan will be paid in arrears to National Broadband Ireland, as each part of the process is completed. A Government statement confirmed that some of this money may be ‘clawed-back’ from the company in certain circumstances.