The Government promised to build a network reaching every home by 2020, however the tender process for the NBP has been delayed.

The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources confirmed on Wednesday that it will not be in a position to commence negotiations with shortlisted bidders as planned this year, or to award the NBP contract to the winning bidder or bidders until 2017, several months later than originally planned.

“This is a complicated process that is governed by statute and requires detailed planning to ensure delivery of the State intervention in a manner that meets all of the objectives set out in the intervention strategy. The contract will be for a 25-year term and it is important that we get this right in terms of deployment of the network, technical specifications, future-proofing and value for money for the State.

“It is now envisaged that the Department will not be in a position to award a contract until 2017. This is a delay, potentially of a few months, to the actual procurement process. It is still planned to commence the build as soon as possible in 2017, with the majority of premises being addressed within three years,” a spokesperson for the Department of Communications said.

Backward step

New IFA environment and rural affairs chair Thomas Cooney has described the decision by the Department of Communications to delay the rollout of broadband in rural areas as a backward step that will undermine the enterprise potential of rural Ireland and impact on thousands of farm families and rural dwellers.

“The current reality is that over 40% of the country does not have a basic broadband connection. The unacceptable delay means that the digital divide will continue. Over 750,000 rural households across the country continues to be denied a modern fibre broadband network. This is impacting on access to services via the internet and the competitiveness of many rural micro-businesses.

“There is an urgent need for a new, incoming government to demonstrate their commitment to rural Ireland to review and reverse this decision,” he said.

Promised delivery date

The setback means that many rural homes may be left without adequate broadband until 2022, two years after the Government’s promised delivery date and a decade after the Government first launched the plan.

Eir, one of the shortlisted bidders for the contract, said it will continue to roll out high-speed broadband “at pace”. Currently, only 1.4m (60%) homes and businesses across Ireland can access high-speed broadband.

“We have commenced the rollout of high-speed broadband to the additional 300,000 homes and businesses in rural Ireland. We aim to complete the first 100,000 by the end of this year.

“We will continue to assist the Government to ensure that the National Broadband Plan is implemented so that every home and business across Ireland can access high-speed broadband as quickly as possible.”

The NBP promised subsidised high-speed broadband to 750,000 rural homes and businesses by 2020.