Economist Colm McCarthy
Jack Horgan-Jones, in The Irish Times, reports that the Department of Communications has said Eir’s €1bn proposal to deliver rural broadband – as an alternative to that of the more expensive Granahan McCourt’s National Broadband Plan – “has not met” the State’s criteria for the project.
It follows Peter O’Dwyer reporting in The Sunday Business Post yesterday that Eir – which was previously in the bidding process until it dropped out in January 2018 – had rubbished the Government’s claim that up to 81,000 premises across Ireland would have to pay higher bills for high-speed fibre broadband under Eir’s plan. Eir said the figure would, instead, be 9,000.
CEO of Eir Carolan Lennon, who told an Oireachtas committee just last week that it could do the project for €1billion, has an op-ed piece in today’s Irish Times claiming it warned the Government about “unnecessary costs and complexity for almost two years while we were in the process”.
Ms Lennon writes:
“For €1 billion we could build a network which would pass all the rural premises in the NBP with high-speed broadband and connect all those who want it to their broadband provider of choice.
“We would use Eir’s existing infrastructure, rather than building over it like National Broadband Ireland has chosen to do. Most significantly we would use the expertise Eir has gained over the past three years rolling out fibre at pace and scale in rural Ireland, passing 340,000 rural premises later this summer (more than 70 per cent of the number of rural premises in the NBP).”
“…The vast majority of homes in rural Ireland already have an Eir connection and we would reuse the existing overhead or underground plant where available. This would deliver affordable connections to customers across rural Ireland but be cheaper than the NBP approach because it reuses existing infrastructure rather than building new connections.”
Meanwhile, yesterday, on RTÉ Radio One’s Marian, hosted by Brendan O’Connor…
During a segment on the National Broadband Plan, economist Colm McCarthy called for a judge-led inquiries into the cost overruns for both the National Broadband Plan and the National Children’s Hospital.
“Every time there is a really big cock-up in the Irish public capital programme – and there have been lots of them, the National Children’s Hospital was another one – there doesn’t seem to be a threshold, above which the Government says ‘we really should have a detailed inquiry going back to the beginning in this case’.
“And I think we should.
“I think there should be a judge-led public, sworn, inquiry into both the broadband plan and the National Children’s Hospital.
“…The temptation always is to say, ‘ah sure what’s €2bn or what’s €1bn on the national….sign the cheque and God is good and we’re off to the elections’ and so on.
“The cock-ups, just this year, have been so big that it’s a wake-up call to anybody. We have a great big National Development Plan, a great big public capital programme, heading for €7bn per annum to be spent on all sorts of different kinds of infrastructure.
“There is no chance of a rational, careful programme of public investment here in the years ahead unless the errors that have arisen in these two cases are fully documented, names are named and the lessons are drawn to avoid a repetition.
“We’ve been screwing up things in the public capital programme, Brendan, since I was a kid. There have been shocking cost overruns, huge mistakes made…”
“…it is feasible to learn the lessons from these two fiascos.”
Listen back to Marian in full here