The government has today signed off on the National Broadband Plan expected to cost in the region of €3 billion with the appointment of the Broadband Ireland Consortium as the preferred bidder.
The Consortium led by businessman David McCourt was the only bidder still in the running for the National Broadband Plan after Eir and Siro dropped out of the process.
The announcement of a preferred bidder came after extensive cabinet meetings today.
The cost of the plan has ballooned from €1 billion when first announced to an expected price tag of €3 billion today.
The majority of this will be paid out in the first ten years of a 25 year contract with Broadband Ireland.
Work on the plan will commence by the end of this year with the first homes projected to get their internet connection by next year, and an estimated timeline to connect everyone within seven years.
In Galway 135,118 premises will be connected to fibre broadband under the plan.
The majority of broadband connections will be delivered through 144,000km of high-speed fibre optic cable.
“Access to broadband affects many parts of Ireland & it requires a national solution. So that we can connect with the world, with family members, with businesses, with new ideas and new ways of doing things,” said Minister for Communications Richard Bruton announcing the plan’s progression today.
The Minister said that the plan guarantees a level playing field for 540,000 homes and businesses which cannot access high speed broadband.
He went on to say that this is the largest investment being made in rural Ireland since the electrification of rural area.
The Department of Public Expenditure has expressed doubts that this plan will deliver good value for money, but the government has said that its projections are based on the most pessimistic outcome.
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said “As Taoiseach, it’s my job to imagine the future and think about what it’s going to look like.”
“Already some multi-nationals employ a quarter of their staff from home. They require high-speed broadband and secure connections. At the moment, many people living in Rural Ireland are excluded.
“I have seen students in small rural and island schools being able to study subjects like physics by video-link to a larger school. This will be even more common in the future.”
“Access to broadband affects many parts of Ireland, and it requires a national solution. So that we can connect with the world, with family members, with businesses, with new ideas and new ways of doing things.”
Galway TD and former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten said that this was a “historic day” which marks a “turning point for the revitalisation of rural Ireland”.
“Just as roads came, and then electricity, broadband will now be delivered to every townland in Ireland and it will leave as lasting a legacy throughout our Country”.
“When I left Government this complex procurement procedure was completed and all that remained was to obtain Government approval for the project. Today’s announcement completes this process”.
Deputy Naughten was forced to leave the government over controversy surrounding the National Broadband Plan and meetings he had with David McCourt.
In total the National Broadband Plan aims to connect 1.1 million people who currently lack good internet.
The contract is expected to be finalised by this Autumn, with work to begin immediately afterwards.