“This Governments lazy attitude to rural Ireland has been laid bare for all to see with the latest disaster to befall the National Broadband Plan,” says Fianna Fáil T.D. Robert Troy. Deputy Troy has made the comments following the shock news over the weekend that SSE have withdrawn from the E-Net bid which is the only remaining bid in place to supply broadband to rural areas not covered by the E-Fibre programme.
The NBP is a Government initiative to deliver high speed broadband services to all businesses and households in Ireland.
Published in 2012, the NBP committed to make high speed broadband available to more than half the population by 2015.
Since then various updates to the plan have been published.
“The simple fact of the matter is that in their last two general election manifestos, Fine Gael has made promises to hundreds of thousands of citizens living in rural Ireland that it would roll out a National Broadband Plan.
“At every stage where progress was due, Fine Gael moved the goalposts to deflect from their abject failure.
“With SSE withdrawing from the e-Net bid, it’s crystal clear that none of the companies capable of delivering the Plan can see an avenue towards a decent financial return.
“Time and time again, Fine Gael and their partners in government, whoever they may be, have failed to deliver the hard cash needed to roll out of the National Broadband Plan.
“In fact, I would argue that the drawn-out and convoluted tender process has been used by Fine Gael to filibuster their own campaign promises.
“It’s therefore no surprise that the Taoiseach and his senior lieutenants have sought to bump the country into an early general election – they want to make the same promise to deliver rural broadband to the Irish people as they did in the last two general elections.
“Fine Gael and their independent colleagues have been caught out once again. They are quite happy to treat rural Ireland quite differently to their South Dublin bastions.
“The wheels have come off the entire National Broadband Plan. Since Minister Naughten took office in 2016, every façade of the Plan has been diminished and downgraded, and any opportunity to reduce the State’s involvement has been taken.
“There are five questions that Minister Naughten and his Fine Gael colleagues must answer:
1. Why have e-Net not been designated as the Preferred Bidder?
2. When were you made aware of SSE’s decision to withdraw from the e-Net consortium?
3. When will the contract be signed?
4. When will the first homes be connected?
5. Over how many years will it take to connect the 540,000 households and businesses?
“Additionally, Minister Naughten must deliver a fully independent review of the Broadband Plan to date as was voted for by the Dáil last February. Anything less and he will once again fail to do what is right and proper by rural Ireland,” concluded Deputy Troy.