A SINN Féin senator has urged the Government to ensure that broadband provision for rural Ireland does not become ‘another broken promise’.
The future of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) has come into question after SSE, the UK utility giant, withdrew from the Enet consortium which is bidding for the contract to deliver the plan. The NBP was first announced in 2012 and promised to provide ‘next generation broadband to every home and business in the State’ with more than half a million homes requiring State intervention to achieve that.
SSE is the latest company to withdraw from the process after Eir pulled out of the running earlier this year with ESB and Vodafore withdrawing at an earlier stage. Despite Enet confirming that they were committed to the NBP, many people are questioning if the plan can be delivered.
Speaking on the subject, Erris-based Senator Rose Conway-Walsh described the whole process as ‘shambolic’ and claimed the government have taken their eye off the ball.
“The entire process so far has been shambolic. SSE pulling out of the tendering process is just the latest setback. The current Fine Gael led Government is failing to help by allowing Eir to cherry-pick the easiest 300,000 out of the 870,000 households to be covered by the national broadband plan. This will mean many areas still not being covered.
Eye off the ball
“The reason that the entire process has broken down is because the Government has taken its eye off the ball. The lack of reliable access to high speed broadband in rural areas is the biggest obstacle to increased employment and economic activity in Mayo. People are at their wits end trying to function with a slow and unreliable internet access. This is a question of priorities and the failure to act on promises made.
“The Programme for Government promises access to broadband in every home across Ireland by 2020. The Programme for Government is a live document which should be fulfilled. It is simply not good enough to make promises at election time, followed by showcase announcements only for the situation to remain as bad as ever,” she said.
Fianna Fáil have also criticised the government’s handling of the whole process but Senator Conway-Walsh said that ‘the privatisation of the telecommunications network in this country by Fianna Fáil has resulted in the costly and delayed roll out of broadband services’.
Despite SSE withdrawing from the Enet consortium, Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten said tenders are expected from Enet in the coming weeks and he expects the procurement process to be completed later in the year.