National Broadband plan could hit €3bn, Varadkar tells Dáil

Homes, businesses without broadband are ‘real casualties’ of ‘debacle’, says McDonald

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: ‘The cost including VAT contingencies and so on could be in the region of €3 billion albeit spread over 25 years’. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/WPA Pool/Getty

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: ‘The cost including VAT contingencies and so on could be in the region of €3 billion albeit spread over 25 years’. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/WPA Pool/Getty

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed that the cost of the national broadband plan could be in the region of €3 billion.

The original plan was expected to be €500 million but Mr Varadkar insisted that the first plan was to connect 11,000 towns and villages while the current plan aimed to provide high speed coverage to 540,000 homes and businesses in more rural and remote areas.

Mr Varadkar was speaking in the Dáil as he defended the delay in the announcement of a decision on the plan which had been expected by Easter but is now delayed until after the recess.

“The cost including VAT contingencies and so on could be in the region of €3 billion albeit spread over 25 years,” he said, adding: “Bear in mind the benefits – 540,000 homes, farms and businesses, over a million people. A huge project, a huge scale.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said those half a million homes and businesses still without access to high-speed broadband were the “real casualties of this entire debacle”.

She said the promise to deliver broadband to every home and business by 2020 “is going to be broken spectacularly”.

Seven years after the plan was originally announced “we still do not have a date for commencement” and she asked what was Plan B if the tendering process failed.

The Government is looking at “Plan B, Plan C, Plan D” Mr Varadkar said.

“We are going into this one in excruciating detail,” he told the Dáil in defence of the delay.”

Insisting that the current project is “a very different” plan, Mr Varadkar said the original €500 million estimate was designed to bring fibre to 11,000 towns and villages but not to rural areas.

“Whenever people speak of the cost being multiples of that original estimate, it is important always to point out that it is a different project. Bringing fibre to the villages of Ireland is not the same as bringing it to 540,000 homes, farms and businesses in rural Ireland. It is quite a different project.”