Broadband timeline: how did we get here?

Government’s flagship communications policy seven years in the making

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte announced the National Broadband Plan (NBP) on August 30th, 2012, describing it as “the rural electrification of the 21st century”.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte announced the National Broadband Plan (NBP) on August 30th, 2012, describing it as “the rural electrification of the 21st century”.

 

August 30th, 2012: Minister for communications Pat Rabbitte announces the National Broadband Plan (NBP), describing it as “the rural electrification of the 21st century”.

July 15th, 2015: Minister for communications Alex White publishes a draft strategy and map of a proposed intervention area, which includes a promise of a 2020 timeline for delivery.

December 22nd, 2015: The Department of Communications publishes an intervention map, while controversially rejecting a proposal by Eir to supply 300,000 homes in the NBP area on a commercial basis. It also announces a shortlist of five bidders for project, which includes Eir, Siro, Enet, Imagine and Gigabit Fibre.

July 5th, 2016: White adds another 170,000 homes to the intervention area, bringing it to 927,000 homes, more than a third of the State’s housing stock, while Eir, Enet and Siro proceed to the next stage of procurement.

April 5th, 2017: Minister for communications Denis Naughten announces as a deal with Eir to remove 300,000 homes from NBP, leaving 542,000 for the State-subsided scheme.

July 4th, 2017: Naughten signals the plan will be delayed by at least a year due to the complexity of the tender

September 26th, 2017: Siro drops out, saying there was no longer a “business case” for its continued participation. Industry sources say the company exited because of Government’s deal with Eir.

January 31st, 2018: Eir, the State’s largest telco and pre-race favourite, drops out, citing “growing uncertainty” about regulatory and pricing issues. The sole remaining bidder Enet is joined in its bid by Airtricity owner SSE and UK logistics specialist John Laing.

April 7th, 2018: Naughten “facilitates” a lunch at Leinster House for David McCourt, the Irish-born founder and chairman of US investment firm Granahan McCourt and his family members. The minister, who does not attend himself, paid for the €37 lunch through a direct debit Oireachtas system, which deducts payments from salaries.

June 26th, 2018: Naughten and Department of Communications officials hold a meeting with McCourt.

July 16th, 2018: Naughten accepts a New York dinner invite from McCourt.

July 28th, 2018: SSE exits the lead bidding consortium, which is now led by Granahan McCourt.

September 18th, 2018: The department receives final tender from Granahan McCourt consortium, which now lists Denis O’Brien’s Actavo as a key partner while John Laing exits.

October 4th, 2018: Details of Naughten’s New York dinner meeting with McCourt come to light. His department initially insists the event was primarily social but later releases minutes of the meeting.

October 11th, 2018: Naughten admits he met McCourt on a separate occasion in June with other departmental officials.

Richard Bruton, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times
Richard Bruton, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

October 12th, 2018: Naughten resigns after admitting he held three further private dinners with McCourt during the procurement process. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar orders a review of the tender process while Richard Bruton takes over the communications brief.

November 27th, 2018: Review clears ex-minister and businessman of influencing broadband plan.

April 26th, 2019: Report in The Irish Times reveals Government is set to approve plan despite warnings from officials that the €3 billion cost does not represent good value for money

May 7th, 2019: National Broadband Ireland (NBI) consortium led by the US investment firm Granahan McCourt formally unveiled as preferred bidder for the scheme

June 24th, 2019: Eir lobs grenade into the process by claiming it could do it for €1billion, triggering more controversy, but Government labels Eir’s plan as vague, insisting is does not meet the key objectives of the plan.

November 15th, 2019: European Commission gives its approval, under EU state-aid rules, for the Government’s €2.6 billion of public support for the €3 billion National Broadband Plan.

November 19th, 2019:  Cabinet approves contract to be signed with National Broadband Ireland, the group led by US businessman David McCourt.