Dáil votes to consider moving broadband infrastructure back into State ownership
Government not obliged to act on vote, roll out with Enet to continue
There was a clear 77 to 48 majority by opposition TDs to accept the Fianna Fáil proposal to review the National Broadband Plan procurement process and consider advancing the rollout of broadband through State ownership
TDs have backed a call for the Government to consider taking the rollout of broadband back into State ownership and using existing ESB infrastructure as part of the project.
Fianna Fáil accepted a Sinn Féin amendment to its own proposal for a review of the controversial tendering process to include an examination of the feasibility of the State taking control of the system.
In 1999 Fianna Fáil was in government when it sold its share in the State telecommunications company Telecom Éireann.
As expected the Government was defeated in a Dáil vote over the Fianna Fáil proposal demanding a review of the tendering process for the National Broadband Plan.
There was a clear 77 to 48 majority by opposition TDs to accept the Fianna Fáil proposal to review the National Broadband Plan procurement process and consider advancing the rollout of broadband through State ownership.
The Government was supported by Independents Michael Lowry, Mattie McGrath, Noel Grealish, Michael Harty and Michael Collins.
TDs also voted against the Government and accepted by 78 votes to 48, a Bill introduced by People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith to end the granting of licences for fossil fuel exploration and extraction in Ireland.
The Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill now goes to committee for consideration.
Minister for Communications Denis Naughten said the Fianna Fáil review would push the process back to 2019 and people in rural Ireland would have to wait even longer for high speed broadband.
There is no obligation for the Government to act on the vote and such defeats on legislation and motions are an almost weekly feature of Dáil business under the “new politics” system where the minority Government is likely to lose a vote if Fianna Fáil either abstains or votes against it.
Debate on the National Broadband Plan and the vote follow the decision by telecoms company Eir to pull out of the tender process, leaving a single bidder, Enet, in place to provide broadband coverage to 540,000 households and businesses.
Fianna Fáil demanded an independent assessment of whether the procurement process for the contract was fit for purpose, which it believed would take two months.
The Government called on TDs to accept its amendment, that undertaking a review of the procurement process would delay the introduction of a broadband infrastructure by at least six months. This was however defeated by 77 votes to 47.