Ireland: Ministers are set to sign off on the €3 billion broadband plan - here's what we know so far - - PressFrom - United Kingdom
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IrelandMinisters are set to sign off on the €3 billion broadband plan - here's what we know so far

14:50  07 may  2019
14:50  07 may  2019 Source:   thejournal.ie

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Ministers are set to sign off on the €3 billion broadband plan - here's what we know so far © Catalyst Images Stock image CABINET IS EXPECTED to approve the €3 billion National Broadband Plan (NBP) which aims to bring high-speed internet to more than 540,000 homes, farms and businesses across rural Ireland.

The first customers will be connected next year, while some may not get internet connection for up to seven years, depending on the roll out plan.

The National Broadband Plan, first announced in 2012, aims to bring high-speed internet to parts of the country – smaller towns and one-off homes – that are unlikely to be viable business prospects for commercial providers.

The plan has since been beset by delays and setbacks, including the withdrawal of Eir and rival broadband infrastructure giant Siro, a joint venture between Vodafone and ESB, from the bidding process.

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US-based investment firm  is the only firm still vying for the contract for the project, which it plans to build with a group of subcontractors. SSE had been part of its consortium, however the energy giant pulled out of the group in July.

Ministers are set to sign off on the €3 billion broadband plan - here's what we know so far © Leah Farrell RollingNews.ie A contract had been expected to be awarded last year, with then communications minister Denis Naughten – who eventually quit his ministerial post over a series of controversial meetings with Granahan McCourt chief David McCourt.

Criticism has been levelled at the government over pressing ahead with the bid, with some in the opposition stating that the State will not own the network.

A lot is being talked about, so here’s what we know.

When will the first premises get connected?

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Shovels will be in ground later this year, with the first connections made next year. However, depending on the rollout plan, which will be determined by the National Broadband Ireland company (the company being set up to operate the project) some premises could take up to seven years to connect.

The government maintains it wants no one left behind and believes Ireland will be at the forefront, ahead of other EU members in terms of internet connectivity.

In the meantime, to ensure rural areas have some access to the internet available, 300 connection points will be made available by next year. These will be internet hubs in schools, community centres and businesses where people who do not yet have access to internet can get online.

Ministers are set to sign off on the €3 billion broadband plan - here's what we know so far © Wikimedia David McCourt of Granahan McCourt. How many homes will get fibre broadband and how many will get wireless connections?

Majority of premises will get fibre broadband, however the Department of Communications estimates that about 1%-2% will have wireless connection.

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The homes and businesses which fall into this percentile are premises that the most remote, where it is physically not possible to get fibre broadband to the home and where the cost of rolling out fibre will be too expensive.

How much will it cost?

The cost to the State is €2.97 billion – less than half of what the overall cost of the project is. This price includes VAT and a contingency fund. The contingency or slush fund set aside is €545 million, and will only be allowed to be drawn down in set down specific incidences. VAT accounts for €355 million.

The majority of the €2.97 billion will be paid in the first ten years, though payments will be made over 25 years.

If the uptake is lower than expected the State subsidy paid to National Broadband Ireland will be less, as the government will not be paying for connections that are not taken up by customers – therefore, the argument being made is that the risk lies with the company not the State.

The contract sets out that National Broadband Ireland only gets paid when connections are made to a certain standard. The department will test the connections every quarter to ensure a certain quality is being rolled out.

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How fast will it be?

Ministers are set to sign off on the €3 billion broadband plan - here's what we know so far © Shutterstock Eakwiphan Smitabhindhu The connection is to be 150mbps by year one, but under the contract it is to reach 500mbps by year eleven.

How much will customers pay?

Under the plan, customers in rural Ireland will pay the same prices as those in urban areas. It is envisaged that ‘bundles’ will be offered by all the main telecoms operators, where people can buy access to TV, broadband and phone. The wholesale connection charge will be set at €100 per premises, though this charge is generally build into the package and not generally passed on to customer up front.

What about a rural house on a far removed mountain that does not want to be connected?

Technically, homes, businesses and farms will not be connected unless they make an order, but the service must be made available in all areas around Ireland. This means that if and when a premises decides it wants to get access to internet, the owner can place an order and it must be carried out. The contract also sets out that internet access must be made available within a set out time period.

How much cable will be used?

About 144,000 kilometres of fibre cable will be installed on about 90,000 Eir poles around Ireland to deliver access to broadband

When will the contract be signed and published?

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The contract with the McCourt consortium runs to over 1,500 pages and is due to be signed in the next three to six months. The contract will be published after that point.

What network will National Broadband Ireland use?

The company has opted to install the fibre cables on poles owned by Eir. Leasing these cables from Eir will cost in the region of up to €1 billion.

Is this value for money?

Ministers are set to sign off on the €3 billion broadband plan - here's what we know so far © getty Irish Finance Minister, Paschal Donohoe That is the big questions today. The Secretary General of the Department of Finance has warned Finance and Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe that this plan is not value for money, though senior sources in the Department of Communications refute this and state rigourous cost evaluations were carried out.

Re-tendering the project could take another two to three years and there would no guarantee it would cost any less, said the government. Some in opposition state that a State agency like the ESB should be tasked with the job, but this would breach State aid and procurement rules.

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