Minister rejects Fianna Fáil demand for review of broadband plan
Naughten says he will not allow process to continue a minute longer than necessary
Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte, party spokesman on communications Timmy Dooley and Fianna Fáil technology spokesman James Lawless speaking to media at Leinster House regarding the party’s private member’s motion on the delivery of broadband. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins
“I have continuously said I would not allow this process to continue one minute longer than absolutely necessary in order to deliver a future-proofed broadband network for every single placename in rural Ireland, ’’ said Mr Naughten.
The Minister was responding in the Dáil on Tuesday night to a Fianna Fáil private member’s motion calling for the review.
Last week Eir, one of the two bidders tendering to supply broadband to the remaining 540,000 homes and businesses in the State without it, announced it was pulling out of the process. This left only one consortium, Enet-SSA, remaining.
Mr Naughten said just as roads came, and then electricity, the Government was determined broadband would be delivered, leaving a lasting legacy across rural Ireland.
He said the Fianna Fáil motion called for a review of the procurement process to examine several aspects of the tender, including the degree to which it was inhibiting the participation of suitable bidders. This, said the Minister, suggested the remaining bidder was not suitable.
“This is a group with significant international experience across the telecoms, engineering and infrastructure sectors.’’
He said the Fianna Fáil proposal would push the procurement process into 2019, and plunge the entire project into uncertainty.People in rural Ireland would have to wait even longer for high speed broadband in those circumstances.
Fianna Fáil communications spokesman Timmy Dooley said the problem of broadband reception was not always about areas in counties such as Donegal, Kerry, Clare and Roscommon. Parts of rural Co Dublin and south Wicklow fell within the catchment area where high speed broadband was not available.
“That should stand as a shocking indictment of the Government’s failure in terms of rolling out this plan.’’
Mr Dooley said premises without broadband were made up of homes with parents who could not engage in basic online banking transactions. There were children who could not do their homework, and students who could not file assignments. Farmers could not access schemes, services and records, and small businesses were unable to trade online.
He said the Government’s broadband plan was in disarray.