Eir ‘missed deadline’ for its €1bn broadband plan
Government says company failed to submit detailed note by Wednesday’s deadline
Eir failed to submit a detailed note on its alternate proposal for the National Broadband Plan within the requested deadline, the Department of Communications has said. File photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Eir failed to submit a detailed note on its alternate proposal for the National Broadband Plan (NBP) to the Government within the requested deadline, the Department of Communications has said.
A spokeswoman for Minister for Communications Richard Bruton said the company had been asked to provide the detailed breakdown of its proposal to provide rural broadband for €1 billion by close of business on Wednesday. However, it did not do so.
“Eir was one of the bidders for the National Broadband Plan. The company submitted a bid of nearly €3 billion, and then pulled out of the process citing the high risks to Eir and too much oversight by the department,” the spokeswoman said.
“The department has requested a detailed note from Eir setting out all the assumptions made and the financial model underpinning the €1 billion suggested by Eir. The department asked that this information be forwarded to the department by yesterday [Wednesday] evening. It has yet to be received.”
Fraction of cost
Eir’s suggestion, at an Oireachtas committee earlier this week, that it could achieve the objectives of the NBP for a fraction of the cost has caused controversy, with relations between the company and the department suffering. Officials were frustrated by the emergence of the proposal at such a late stage, as well as the comparative lack of detail around it.
Government sources have expressed doubt about elements of Eir’s plan. This includes its argument that almost €1 billion could be saved if the company was running the NBP, as it would then waive the charges it currently plans to impose on the Granahan McCourt consortium, which is the preferred bidder.
Granahan McCourt must pay Eir €900 million for access to poles which will carry wiring.
“This may present regulatory and competition law issues if not presented in a transparent and open way to ensure other operators or consumers are not indirectly subsidising these rentals through higher charges from Eir,” a Government source said.
Government sources also suggested Eir did not suggest at any point prior to withdrawing in January 2018 that it could provide rural broadband for €1 billion.
Eir, meanwhile, believes the Government’s plan is needlessly expensive, and has said the Government has shown little interest in ideas to bring the cost down. A spokesman for the company said it had responded to the department on Wednesday to say it would provide a detailed note by the end of the week.
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said on Thursday the department met Eir as recently as three weeks ago and the proposition was not discussed then. “Given that the current contract for the winner of the National Broadband Plan process hasn’t yet been signed I don’t think it would be fair for me to now indicate what we are going to do, apart from saying what’s obvious that we need to do is to exactly understand what Eir are proposing,” Mr Donohoe said.