Rural Ireland plays waiting game as Government mulls broadband bid

Final and only bid for NBP was submitted last September but we have no decision yet

There was only one bidder for the National Broadband Plan, a US investment vehicle with no direct experience of building a big piece of telecoms infrastructure, and no competitive tender after the industry here and in the UK all but shunned the process. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

There was only one bidder for the National Broadband Plan, a US investment vehicle with no direct experience of building a big piece of telecoms infrastructure, and no competitive tender after the industry here and in the UK all but shunned the process. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

 

It’s been 16 weeks since the final and only bid for the National Broadband Plan (NBP) was submitted to Government amid a flurry of controversy about former minister Denis Naughten’s meetings with lead bidder Granahan McCourt.

But we’ve yet to hear whether the tender has been accepted and if the project will proceed as planned. The Government had expected to be anointing preferred bidder status on a big industry name after a competitive process.

Instead, there was only one bidder, a US investment vehicle with no direct experience of building a big piece of telecoms infrastructure, and no competitive tender after the industry here and in the UK all but shunned the process.

Turning back now, however, risks an almighty political backlash, one that could potentially down Fine Gael’s tenuous grip on power. The party’s flagship communications project has been promised since 2012 and seems no closer to fruition now.

If the Government accepts the bid, the State’s biggest ever communications project will reside in the hands of a US venture capital company, which could easily pull the plug on the project if it proves too much of an undertaking without too much reputational damage.

It was to have made its decision prior to Christmas but the wait goes on. “The assessment of the final bid by the department is continuing and has been since a final tender submission was received from the bidder on September 18th,” a spokesman for the Department of Communications said.

He dismissed the suggestion that the Government’s pre-occupation with Brexit may be holding the process up. “This process is unrelated to the United Kingdom’s decision to withdraw from the EU,” he said.

The Government still insists most of the 540,000 homes and businesses will be connected within the first two years of the project commencing but the timelines are getting tighter and tighter.

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