The rollout of Ireland’s €3bn National Broadband Plan is currently 12 months behind schedule, according to the Department of Communications.
Officials from the department with oversight responsibility for the controversial plan appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this afternoon and admitted that “in absolute terms” the contractor National Broadband Ireland (NBI) “has not delivered” to date.
Mark Griffin, the Department’s chief, said that to date he had expected that at least 60,000 of the target 554,000 rural homes and premises would have been in a position to connect to high speed broadband, but that just over half of that figure has been achieved.
“When you look at it in stark terms, you would say, ok, there is a problem there, and we haven’t hit where we needed to be, and there are reasons for that,” Mr Griffin said.
The department’s project manager said that if there are delays to the project it is up to NBI to inform the department.
“They have to notify us if they’re 3 months, 6 months, or in the current instance they’re 12 months delayed,” he said.
Mr Mulligan said that while penalties have not yet been applied to NBI, the plan itself has had €50m in State subsidies withheld to date due to project milestones being missed.
He said that there is no certainty over what NBI’s target for end-2022 will be.
“We want them to go faster,” he said adding that a target will only be agreed “once we’re satisfied it’s the maximum they can achieve by the end of the year”.
Just 7,000 rural connections
Earlier, the PAC heard that just 7,000 rural homes have been connected for high-speed internet as part of the National Broadband Plan to date, representing just 1% of the target.
In the morning session before the PAC, NBI said the plan was nevertheless on course to meet its final target date of end December 2026.
The meeting heard NBI’s revised target for the end of 2022 is to install the infrastructure for an internet connection, a process referred to as “passing”, at 130,000 premises, a figure just 15,000 greater than the initial target for end-2021.
The 2021 figure had been revised down previously to 60,000, a figure which itself was missed by just under 30,000 connections. Currently, 38,000 premises have been connected, the meeting heard, just 7,000 of which are in rural areas.
Regarding the delays to the project, some of which has been attributable to the Covid pandemic, Peter Hendrick, the NBI chief executive, said there had been “learnings” in the past two years.
“As we build out, we’re learning how to do things more efficiently. Any delay we have to put forward with evidence,” he said.
Mr Hendrick said the average cost to both pass and connect a home was roughly €3,000, rising to €5,000 when taking into account rental co