A MAYO Senator has called on the government to ‘reach out’ to the ESB and direct the semi-state company to lead the roll-out of high-speed broadband in rural areas.
Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh made the comments following a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications meeting where Eir declared that it could deliver the National Broadband Plan (NBP) at a fraction of the current cost the State.
Eir’s Chief Executive Carolan Lennon told the Oireachtas Communications Committee they could complete the €3billion NBP for under €1 billion based on their approach to their 300k rural rollout, which aims to make broadband available to more than 300,000 rural homes on a commercial basis.
The telecommunications company were bidders for the National Broadband Plan but pulled out of the process with the US-based investment firm Granahan McCourt now the government’s preferred bidder for the contract.
Senator Conway-Walsh said that the NBP could be delivered for a more affordable price than what is envisaged by the government but questioned if Eir were the company to do it. She cited Eir’s ‘poor customer services experiences’ as reasons for why they would not be her preferred option.
The Erris-based senator said that ESB have the infrastructure and the track record to deliver a project of this size and called on the government to reach out to them.
“The ESB brings with it a strong track record of delivering important infrastructural projects across the State, it has the existing infrastructure there and has a proven capacity to deliver.
“My constituents are all too familiar with poor customer services experiences with Eir, and if you travel through rural Ireland you can see quite clearly that Eir’s poles and ducts are actually in quite poor condition.
“The ESB runs electricity to almost every single home in the State and we should be doing what other countries in Europe do which is to have double purpose networks which combine both electricity and broadband.
“The ESB was a frontrunner early on in the NBP procurement process and withdrew following the Government’s decision to allow Eir in 2017 to cherry-pick the 300k most easy-to-reach homes in rural Ireland.
“We need to reach out to the ESB again and direct them as a semi-state body to deliver for the rest of rural Ireland,” she said.