The National Broadband Plan is now effectively running eight months behind target, Denis Naughten TD told Dáil Éireann this afternoon.
“Buried inside Tuesday’s budget documentation was the admission that the National Broadband Plan is now running eight months behind schedule; that’s a further two months behind the timeline presented to the Oireachtas Communications Committee by the contractor just last month,” said Denis Naughten.
“In reality this means that 75,000 less homes will have access to the high-speed broadband network at the end of next year than was planned when the contract was signed in November 2019.
“And while Communications Minister Eamon Ryan told the Dáil yesterday that these delays were down to Covid, the reality is that this does not hold up to examination. The work which has to be done to deliver this project is outdoor and the contractors were designated as essential workers under level 5 Covid rules.”
Denis Naughten added: “Clearly there are other bottlenecks in the delivery of this vital project to rural Ireland which are not being publicly disclosed, and we need to ask why?
“It is clear to me that the failure of Mobile Phone & Broadband Taskforce, established to specifically address key bottlenecks in the delivery of vital broadband infrastructure across the country, to hold a single meeting since the contract with National Broadband Ireland (NBI) was signed in November 2019 is at least one factor.”
He pointed out: “The last Government established the Mobile Phone & Broadband Task Force to specifically address these types of bottlenecks. As a member of Cabinet, I chaired the taskforce to ensure the focus across both the public and private sector was to make things happen on the ground that would make a real difference.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that this Taskforce has not held any meeting since the signing of the National Broadband Plan contract and it is now clear that a multi-agency approach led from the Cabinet table is needed to get back on track and to fast track the delivery of the most important infrastructure project of this generation.
“The current Programme for Government, published after Covid-19 hit, promised to fast track the delivery of high speed broadband to every home in Ireland but all we have seen since then is hand-wringing and little in the way of action. In fact, the most significant step taken by this Government on broadband is to move responsibility for its delivery from the Cabinet table to Minister of State, Ossian Smyth, which sends out the wrong message across the public sector,” concluded Denis Naughten.