Tag Archives: National Broadband Plan

The National Broadband Plan contract being signed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister Richard Bruton and National Broadband Ireland’s David McCourt at St Kevin’s National School, Wicklow last week

Yesterday.

In The Sunday Times.

Justine McCarthy reported:

Fianna Fail is demanding the government explain how a previously undisclosed private investor in the €5bn national broadband plan (NBP) became involved in the state’s most expensive infrastructural development, and on what terms, writes Justine McCarthy.

The involvement of a third American investment firm emerged on Tuesday when the contract was signed.

Previously, Leo Varadkar, the taoiseach, and Richard Bruton, the communications minister, had told the Dail that Granahan McCourt, the winning bidder, and Tetrad Corporation, an associated company, were the sole private funders involved.

Oak Hill (OHA (UK) LLP) was named in a Department of the Taoiseach press release issued at a news conference on Tuesday as providing some of the €220m equity and capital investment required of the winning bidder under the terms of the contract. The state is putting up a subsidy of €2.9bn.

No information was given about how much of the €220m Oak Hill is providing.

Questions raised over last-minute ‘undisclosed’ national broadband plan investor (Justine McCarthy, The Sunday Times)

Related: Buffett partner and New York VC fund backing broadband (Adrian Wreckler, Irish Independent, October 2018)

Rollingnews


From top: National broadband contract; KPMG logo; yesterday’s Irish Times

Paul O’ Donoghue writes:

Depressing. The government is spending €3bn on the rural broadband network, but won’t own it once it’s complete.

KPMG was paid €11m to give the government this advice….

KPMG, eh?

‘Rolls-Royce’ rural broadband to cost €6,000 per household (irish Times)

Tuesday: “Surely, It’s Time To Shout ‘Stop'”

Previously: The KPMG Connection

Rollingnews

This morning.

St Kevin’s National School, Wicklow.

The National Broadband Plan contract being signed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister Richard Bruton and National Broadband Ireland’s David McCourt among St Kevin’s sixth class students.

Pics: Merrion Street

Earlier….

From top: Denis O’Brien;  Minister for Communications Richard Bruton; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with David McCourt; McCourt with former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten; Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy

Today.

It’s expected that the Minister for Communications Richard Bruton will bring a memo to Cabinet this morning, recommending that the contract from the National Broadband Plan is signed.

Further to this…

The Social Democrats is calling for a Dáil vote before the contract is signed.

TD Catherine Murphy, co-founder of the Social Democrats, writes:

“The National Broadband Plan carries an unprecedented risk for the State where the Government will hand over a huge amount of public funding, following a flawed process, to a private company for an asset that the State won’t own, with no guarantees in regard to value for money.

“Signing the contract could put the State in financial jeopardy.

“It is essential that the Dáil get to see the precise detail of what the Government is signing up to, and vote on it, prior to the Government giving away so much of the public money for what seems to be so little in the long term.

“How can the Government, on behalf of taxpayers, heavily subsidise infrastructure only to hand it over to private entity, who’s only concern will be profit margins.

“What will the eventual cost be to those who need broadband? To the State in subsidies?

“The broadband network is a vital national asset that will underpin our economy for the future. It is imperative that all people and businesses have access to reliable, high-speed broadband.

“But when the UK and Australia talk about re-nationalising their broadband networks in order to ensure that it is a public good accessible by everyone, surely it’s time to shout stop, and assess how we go about it properly here in Ireland.”

Meanwhile…

Hugh O’Connell, in the Irish Independent reports:

Fianna Fáil is set to effectively drop its opposition to the controversial €3bn National Broadband Plan (NBP) that will leave thousands of homes and businesses in rural Ireland waiting up to seven years for high-speed internet.

The opposition party has admitted that once Fine Gael signs the broadband contract, it may cost taxpayers even more by attempting to break it. The plan is being given final approval by ministers at a special early-morning Cabinet meeting today after it cleared the final regulatory hurdle with the European Commission last week.

National Broadband Ireland (NBI) has told the Government it will take an estimated seven years to roll out broadband to the 540,000 homes and businesses.

Stopping €3bn National Broadband Plan ‘could be even more expensive’ – FF (Irish Independent)

Previously: No Cause For Concern

UPDATE:

Richard Bruton tweetz:

Today is a historic day for rural Ireland. The government are signing the national broadband contract, which will bring high-speed broadband to the 1.1M people across Ireland who can’t get access.

This is the biggest investment in rural Ireland since rural electrification. It will ensure rural communities will not be left behind and will be guaranteed the same opportunities as urban areas.

EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager (above a`nd Minister for Communications Richard Bruton (top)

This morning.

The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, €2.6 billion of public support for the controversial National Broadband Plan.

Communications Minister Richard Bruton said:

“I welcome today’s decision by the European Commission to grant state aid approval to the National Broadband Plan.

The National Broadband Plan will deliver high speed broadband to 1.1 million people, almost one quarter of our country. Without high speed broadband it will be significantly more difficult to attract new jobs to rural areas and develop new enterprise opportunities and it will be more difficult to retain the jobs that currently exist in these areas. H

igh speed broadband will allow remote working, which can ease congestion and reduce emissions. It will ensure that the digital revolution happening in education, healthcare, farming and tourism does not bypass rural Ireland. We will make sure that rural Ireland is not left behind.”

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of EC competition policy said:

“The National Broadband Plan in Ireland is expected to address the significant digital divide between urban and rural areas in Ireland, enabling Irish consumers and businesses to benefit from the full potential of digital growth. This will help households and businesses in areas of Ireland where private investment is insufficient.”

Hmm.

State aid: Commission approves €2.6 billion public support for the Irish National Broadband Plan (EU Commission)

Previously: National Broadband Plan on Broadsheet

Rollingnews

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

UPDATE:

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’

Rollingnews

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

Yesterday.

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)

Earlier….

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