Tag Archives: National Broadband Plan

This afternoon.

In Leinster House.

At the launch of a report by the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment – following an examination of the National Broadband Plan process so far during May, June, July and August.

The report contains 25 conclusions and 10 recommendations which include

The Government should commission an external, independent review on whether its proposals (and the costs) are the only viable option.

A new cost-benefit analysis to be carried out before the final National Broadband contract is signed, commissioned by and developed independently of Government Departments.

The Comptroller and Auditor General should have a role identifying cost overruns in large infrastructure projects.

All infrastructure developed through the National Broadband Plan should remain in public ownership.

Government should re-engage with the ESB to examine the best model for delivery of a new National Broadband Plan through the ESB.

Chair of the committee and Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton told those present:

“As you’re aware this report was endorsed by a majority of the committee, by five votes to three, and it’s well known that the Fine Gael members of the committee, of which I’m a member, did not agree with the report and I totally respect the democratic decision of the committee which I chair.”

More as we get it.

Watch live here


During the launch…

Green Party leader and Dublin TD Eamon Ryan said:

“Ultimately it’s going to be up to Government now to make the call. They have to decide can they change this? And if so, how do we do it in a timely manner?

If we don’t change it though, that sends out a message that worries me. That we’re engaged in consultation that isn’t, you know, real. You can look at ideas but actually once you’ve started on a path, you can’t diverge.”

Fine Gael Senator, from Cork, Tim Lombard said:

KPMG said it would take five years if we were to start this process again – that we could actually come to where we are today. They’re the experts in the field, going through this procurement issue. The department said it could take three to five years. So that’s what the actual experts told us.”

“…from my point of view, we now need to press ahead. We don’t need another expensive review. We don’t expert independence coming in to give us more information on information. We need to get boots on the ground. We need to start this, we need to get a contract signed.”

Fine Gael Senator Joe O’Reilly, from Cavan-Monaghan, said:

“We’ve had an exhaustive process. This committee has sat for four months, effectively, close to four months, instead of the projected two months. So an exhaustive process. No member of the committee and, by the way, we all worked great together and there was a very positive, constructive approach and I’ve nothing to say to the contrary.

“But no member of the committee had a potential guest or group refused admission. So everybody that was wanted to be there was listened to.

“….We’ve exhausted all levels of inquiry. There is nothing new to learn here.”

“…Should we reduce the cost? Should we reduce the €3billion? Yes you can reduce the €3billion. You can take €1billion off it and make it €2billion.

“And you do that by taking 20 per cent of the homes out of it. In other words, defeat the whole purpose.

“…Why is it €3billion?…It’s actually €2billion net because there’s…effectively…up to €500million in there as a contingency in case things go wrong. There’s €345million for the VAT. So, effectively, it’s being stress-tested in terms of cost.”

“…Would a further inquiry throw up something we don’t know? The answer is no. Can we reduce the cost? No, without literally defeating the whole purpose of the exercise and discriminating against a chunk of rural Ireland. And thirdly, should we go ahead now? Absolutely so.

“People talk about State ownership as an alternative. That train left the station when we sold Telecom Eireann….irrespective of that, we have all the advantages of nationalisation in the plan, in this sense, that we will get 60 per cent of excess profits during the run.

“And there is, based on the UK experience, there will be a much larger take up than is anticipated. And we’ll also get 40 per cent of the value of the entire outfit, the entire NBI at the 25-year mark and they’ll be committed to another 10 years to 35.”

“…there’s a lovely old rural expression. That emanates from an agricultural society that I’m proud to come from. And it says you cannot go on weighing the pig. You must, at some point, start feeding it. 

“…I feel, like somebody from the country listening to this, that all the logic could be in delaying this could be to discriminate against the people for whom I come and represent.”

Fine Gael TD, from Galway, Hildegarde Naughton added:

Nobody, nobody has come up with an alternative, plan B, that is legally viable. Nobody, not even the minister. All the experts that came before us. Not even the recommendation of this all, cross-party, committee report. There is no plan B here. It’s just go out again, review it again.”

Fianna Fáil TD, from Clare, Timmy Dooley said:

“We can have another hearing if we so wish, maybe in the Dáil. I’m happy that the work of all members of the committee has done in trying to get to a position of which there are recommendations now.

“So we’re making recommendations to the Government. We can bring that through if we get time in the Dáil and have another debate…it won’t change. It’s still an option for the Government to either accept or ignore the committee report. So a discussion and debate in the Dáil, I don’t think will change the Government’s mind one way or the other.

“…Are you [Irish Examiner journalist Juno McEnroe] suggesting that we have a debate in the House on the report? Of which I think I know what the outcome of that would be. I know what the result of that would be, based on the cross-party support that has been found.

“Yes, we support the Government in the Confidence and Supply Agreement of which this doesn’t form part of. If you’re suggesting that I’m going to threaten to bring down the Government on the strength of whether or not they accept this report or not – well the answer is ‘No’. The answer is ‘No, we won’t be bringing down the Government on this’.

“We’ll be advising them from an Opposition perspective which is what we have done every step of the way. We have raised very serious concerns for the past two years and we continue to act as a responsible Opposition.”

Related: Consultants paid lavishly for wrong advice on broadband (Cantillon, The Irish Times)

Previously: Overly Complex, Restrictive, Redundant And Unfit For Purpose’


David McCourt with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at a Science Foundation of Ireland event in New York, March 2018


Via The Sunday Business Post:

In a highly critical report into the National Broadband Plan (NBP) seen by The Sunday Business Post, members of the cross-party Oireachtas Communications Committee warned that public money would be used to subsidise its roll-out in areas where it wasn’t needed.

The report, which will be published on Tuesday, found that the procurement process run by the Department of Communications was “overly complex, restrictive, redundant and unfit for purpose”, despite being well intentioned.

It said the terms of the tender were too narrow and excluded “other viable options”.

A government source disputed the findings and said that if the recommendations were followed it would add a further siginificant delay to the project.

Broadband plan is waste of taxpayers’ money, says report (Peter O’Dwyer, The Sunday Business Post)

Related: Broadband deal signing with Granahan McCourt set to be delayed for month (Justine McCarthy, The Sunday Times)

Previously: Still Loading

This afternoon

A report carried out by the Oireachtas Committee on Communications has recommended that the broadband network infrastructure remain in public ownership.

The Government has said the contract for the National Broadband Plan will be awarded to Granahan McCourt later this year.

[The report says Granahan McCourt will recoup its money within seven to eight years and retain full ownership, while at the same time the State will have invested almost €3 billion with no ownership rights]

In the report, the committee has recommended that the Government commission an external, independent review on whether its proposals and the costs are the only viable option.

It also says a new cost-benefit analysis should be carried out before the final national broadband contract is signed.

The committee also says the Government should re-engage with the ESB to examine the best model for delivery of a new plan through the ESB.

The report concluded that the original terms of the tender were too narrow.

Committee recommends broadband network remain in public ownership (RTÉ)


David McCourt with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at a Science Foundation of Ireland event in New York, March 2018

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment is sitting in private session today to discuss the National Broadband Plan and vote on a number of proposals in respect of the same.

It follows the committee carrying out an investigation into the plan and, in May, the Government awarding preferred bidder status to consortium Granahan McCourt, led by US businessman David McCourt.

Journalist Aisling Kenny told RTÉ’s News at One that chair of the committee, Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton wants the committee to support her recommendation that the Government press ahead and sign the contracts as soon as possible.

Ms Kenny reported:

“She [Naughton] says there is no evidence to indicate any reliable, cheaper alternative to the National Broadband Plan.”

Ms Kenny also reported that other proposals include recommending that the State own the broadband infrastructure – after it spends €3billion on the plan.

Currently, it’s planned that, in the end, Granahan McCourt will own the infrastructure.

Ms Kenny reported that the committee’s final conclusions should be made public later this afternoon.

Committee vote due on State ownership of broadband network (RTE)

Listen back to News at One in full here

Previously: “There Should Be Judge-Led, Public Inquiries Into The Broadband Plan And The National Children’s Hospital”

From top: Denis O’Brien; CEO of Granahan McCourt, the preferred bidder for the National Broadband Plan, David McCourt and former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten; tables from the Public Accounts Committee’s latest periodic report

Yesterday, the Public Accounts Committee published its latest periodic report which included a chapter on the National Broadband Plan and its meetings about the same.

In the report, the committee said it was “unacceptable” that significant changes to the National Broadband Plan –  made without a new cost/benefit analysis test being carried out – resulted in escalated costs.

The PAC is recommending that a new cost/benefit analysis test be carried out before the final contract is signed.

It also found the procurement process “may have partly deterred parties interested in tendering for the project from doing so” and has called for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to carry out a review of the procurement process.

PAC found…

“As of 28 March 2019, the total expenditure on the NBP since 2013 was €25.4m. The Department [of Communications] informed the committee that the majority of the spend to date had been on consultancy fees.

“The committee was informed that the value-for-money requirement of the NBP was governed by the public procurement process but consultancy fees had risen since 2014.

“The NBP was issued for tender in December 2015. However, the plan has undergone what members considered to be significant changes since it was first explored and these changes have influenced the procurement process.

Continue reading

The Here’s How podcast

Host William Campbell (right) meets Fergal Mulligan (left), Programme Director of the National Broadband Plan at the Department of Communications.

William writes:

I ask Fergal who’s getting a good deal from the National Broadband Plan. He says why he thinks  it’s ‘a hell of a deal for Ireland’…

Listen here

Here’s How

Economist Colm McCarthy

This morning.

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.

He said:

“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.”

Eir best-placed to provide rural broadband solution (Carolan Lennon, The Irish Times)

Eir broadband plan looks set to be rejected by State (Jack Horgan-Jones, The Irish Times)

Eir’s claim puts broadband cat amongst the pigeons (Peter O’Dwyer, The Sunday Business Post)

Listen back to Marian in full here

CEO of Rural Wifi Patrick Cotter; results of a recent survey by Rural Wifi

Rural Wifi, which was launched in 2015, claims to be the first Irish company offering both wireless and satellite broadband across Ireland.

They say using a combination of their router and antenna technologies mean they can get rural customers speeds of 30Mbps.

CEO of Rural Wifi Patrick Cotter – who founded Fleetconnect in 2008, which provides mobile wifi for clients such as Irish Rail and Bus Éireann – writes:

“In the last couple of months, we have been active on the ground in Leitrim and Monaghan -the worst two counties in Ireland for broadband penetration. The take up has been fantastic.

“We are now planning the next steps for further counties over the coming month, testing our service while putting up posters, signing up new customers and installing within short time frames because our teams are already on the ground.

“In Meath, I’m planning to help people be connected with up to 10mb by the end of the year. We need to close the Digital Divide as soon as possible.

“We recently said we’d come to the remote Aran Islands and we did. We installed Rural Wifi into the home of one family with three young kids. They had no internet until then and we got them up to 15 MB per second.”

Rural Wifi offers plans starting from rolling 30-day contracts with packages available from €48 per month for 100 gb data including installation, to unlimited data from €65 per month with a 14-day money back guarantee if the customer isn’t happy.

Fair enough.


Eir’s CEO Carolan Lennon at the Oireachtas communications committee on Tuesday

On Tuesday.

Eir’s chief executive Carolan Lennon told the Oireachtas communications committee that Eir could deliver high-speed broadband to 540,000 homes, farms and businesses across Ireland for €1billion.

This is a fifth of the estimated final cost of the project under the preferred bidder Granahan McCourt and a third of the sum the State has agreed to invest in the plan.

Yesterday, Ms Lennon’s appearance and comments were raised by Fianna Fáil’s leader Micheál Martin and he said:

“I think the Minister got too close to the Granahan McCourt consortium; the political and electoral imperative took over and the issue of cost in the Government’s requirements went out the window.”

“…Given that the costs have ballooned even from the estimates of 2017, never mind the original estimate of €500-odd million, the Taoiseach has been too dismissive of those who have raised legitimate questions about this and of yesterday’s Eir submission, which deserves further analysis. Alternatives should be considered.

“The Taoiseach might have felt the need to make a big political announcement before the local elections but I return to the words of the Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr Robert Watt, who said there was cause to pause and review. I ask the Government to do that now.”

In his response, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that, following on from Ms Lennon’s comments, the Department of Communications had written to Eir to seek further clarification, saying:

“We should not forget that Eir took part in the process and made an initial bid for €2.7 billion, which was higher than the initial bid from Granahan McCourt, and then pulled out of the process, citing the fact that the risks were too high and the level of oversight too onerous, and refusing to make any commitment around the equity investment it would make.

“While the Deputy has been critical that the equity investment made by Granahan McCourt is too low, Eir was unwilling to commit to any equity investment whatsoever.

“It is, therefore, a big turnaround that the company is now saying that it can do the project for €1 billion. If that is the case then I am all ears and we must listen to it.

“We need to know whether this offer is real and stacks up, and what kind of delay would be imposed on people in rural Ireland waiting for broadband if we went back to a new procurement process.

“Everyone understands that neither a private nor a State company can just be given a contract; there would have to be a new procurement process. We also need to know that anything done would be within state aid rules and EU procurement law. A letter was issued today by the Department to Eir seeking that information.”

This morning.

On Today’s Sean O’Rourke, Communications Minister Richard Bruton spoke about the matter…

Rural Wifi

Thanks Barbara

This evening.

At 5pm.

Dr Dónal Palcic, a lecturer in economics, and Professor Eoin Reeves, head of the department of economics, both at the Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick, will appear before the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment to talk about the National Broadband Plan.

Both academics have heavily criticised the procurement process of the plan to date.

The committee’s members are TDs Timmy Dooley (FF), James Lawless (FF), Michael Lowry (Independent), Hildegarde Naughton (FG), Eamon Ryan (Green Party), Bríd Smyth (Solidarity-PBP), Brian Stanley (SF) and Senators Terry Leyden (FF), Tim Lombard (FG), Michael McDowell (Independent) and Joe O’Reilly (FG).

Watch live in link above or here.

Related: National Broadband Plan: Ireland pays the bill for a network it won’t own (Eoin Reeves, Donal Palcic, Times Ireland edition, May 8, 2019)

Related: Time for a reboot on Ireland’s broadband plan (RTE Brainstorm, September 24, 2018)

Previously: “How Could They Get It So Cheap?”

Pic: University of Limerick

Oireachtas webcasting is provided by the Houses of the Oireachtas Service, in association with HEAnet, Ireland’s National Educational and Research Network.

Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure Robert Watt

Secretary General at the Department of Robert Watt previously called for the procurement process into the National Broadband Plan to be cancelled.

Despite his warning, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe signed off on it.




Previously: ‘A Harvey Smith To The Committee’

‘The Procurement Process Should Be Cancelled’

‘How Could They Get It So Cheap?’

From top: Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy; Minister for Communications Richard Bruton; David McCourt with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at a Science Foundation of Ireland event in new York, March 2018; KPMG logo

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy recently tabled a question for the Minister for Communications Richard Bruton.

She asked if his department had engaged KPMG in relation to the National Broadband Plan -which is also being engaged by Granahan McCourt, the preferred bidder for the NBP.

In a written response yesterday, Mr Bruton said:

KPMG Ireland was one of a number of advisors appointed by my department to provide specialist advice and services in relation to the National Broadband Plan (NBP), following a competitive tender process in 2015.

KPMG continues to provide advice and services to my department in relation to the NBP.

This include specialist commercial and financial advice; review of commercial operator plans, the procurement process and supporting documents, and preparation of commercial/financial provisions of the NBP contract.

My department is aware that KPMG Ireland performs the statutory audit of and provides tax advice to, Granahan McCourt Dublin (Ireland) Limited and my department is satisfied that appropriate safeguards are in place.

This includes the audit and tax services being provided by different teams within KPMG Ireland and no contact between the teams with regard to the NBP advisory services.

Last month, in response to a question from Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien, Mr Bruton said his department had paid KPMG €11,475,285 for consultancy work it carried out in respect of the NBP since June 2015.

Ms Murphy’s question in full was:

To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he has engaged a company (details supplied) on aspects of the National Broadband Plan; if so, if he continues to engage the company; if the company is also engaged by the preferred bidder; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Previously: The KPMG Connection