Parliamentary committee recommends national broadband network remain in state hands

23 Aug 2019

Following an investigation into the Irish government’s decision to award preferred bidder status for the National Broadband Plan (NBP) contract to National Broadband Ireland (NBI), a company led by private investment firm Granahan McCourt, a report by the Oireachtas Committee on Communications has recommended that the broadband network infrastructure remain in public ownership. According to local news source RTE, in this report the committee also recommended that the state commission an external, independent review on whether its current proposals, and the costs associated with them, are the only viable option for the NBP project. In addition, it suggested that a new cost-benefit analysis should be carried out before the final contract is signed with NBI later this year, while calling for the government to re-engage with state-owned power company Electricity Supply Board (ESB) to examine the best model for the delivery of a new broadband plan via that company.

The committee’s report argued that the original terms of the NBP tender were too narrow, and that a lack of research into the actual cost of the final project proved to be a structural flaw which led to prospective bidders withdrawing. Among other concerns raised by the report it noted that, while the state will invest almost EUR3 billion (USD3.3 billion) in the NBP project, it will have no ownership rights to the infrastructure that is created. It also raised concerns over the fact that just one government representative is being appointed to the board of NBI.

While the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment (DCCAE) has reportedly said it will consider the committee’s report when it is officially published, RTE cites a government source as saying the recommendations it contains would mean abandoning the current process and starting again, which they claimed could take years.