Irish Times view on the National Broadband Plan: the wait goes on

The impatience of more than 542,000 homes and businesses in rural Ireland is understandable

“The problem about starting from scratch is that it will inevitably lead to a further delay of up to three years in getting broadband rolled out across rural Ireland.” File photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

“The problem about starting from scratch is that it will inevitably lead to a further delay of up to three years in getting broadband rolled out across rural Ireland.” File photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

 

The withdrawal of Scottish energy giant SSE from the sole consortium bidding for the right to complete the National Broadband Plan has left the Government in a quandary. Should it go back to the drawing board and start the whole process again or press on and try and salvage the existing process?

More than 542,000 homes and businesses in rural Ireland have been waiting for a solution to their lack of broadband since 2012

The problem about starting from scratch is that it will inevitably lead to a further delay of up to three years in getting broadband rolled out across rural Ireland. It seems the better option would be to press ahead with the current plan if an industry heavyweight can be persuaded to join the Enet consortium which is still going ahead with its bid for the project. The National Broadband Plan has been bedevilled by delays for the past six years. The withdrawal of major industry players from the tendering process has left it in a precarious position with just one remaining bidder, Enet, which has now lost a key component.

While the Government insists the process can be brought to a successful conclusion, industry sources say it is undeliverable without the involvement of a big industry player. File photograph: Getty Images
While the Government insists the process can be brought to a successful conclusion, industry sources say it is undeliverable without the involvement of a big industry player. File photograph: Getty Images

While the Government insists the process can be brought to a successful conclusion, industry sources say it is undeliverable without the involvement of a big industry player. By bringing SSE into the consortium in the first place Enet effectively conceded that it would not be capable of undertaking such a massive project without the involvement of a company with a track record in the business. The decision of SSE to pull out at this late stage does not augur well for the prospects of getting another industry player involved but a determined effort to achieve this will have to be made.

More than 542,000 homes and businesses in rural Ireland have been waiting for a solution to their lack of broadband since 2012 and their impatience with the failure to deal with their problem is understandable.

Laying more than 110,000km of fibre-optic cable, in many cases across remote and difficult terrain, is no easy task. It comes at a cost of €1.5 billion with half coming from the taxpayer under the current plan. It may be that the State will have to fund the entire cost but one way or another a solution has to be found.

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