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National Broadband Plan is ‘eight months behind schedule’, TD Naughten tells Dáil

THE National Broadband Plan will result in 75,000 fewer homes than expected being connected to the high-speed network by the end of next year, the Dáil has been told.

he roll-out is around eight months behind schedule, Independent TD Denis Naughten said.

At last month’s Committee on Transport and Communications meeting, representatives of National Broadband Ireland told TDs and senators that implementation of the plan is six months behind, with the objective to get 144,000 premises connected by the end of next year.

However, Tuesday’s Budget said 130,000 premises will be “passed” and available for connection by the end of next year.

Around 7,000 to 10,000 premises are “passed” for connection per month, meaning the plan is now eight months behind the original agreement.

“In reality, this means that 75,000 fewer homes will have access to the high-speed broadband network at the end of next year than was planned when the contract was signed in November 2019,” Mr Naughten told the Dáil.

“And while Communications Minister Eamon Ryan told the Dáil yesterday that these delays were down to Covid, the reality is that this does not hold up to examination.

“The work to be done to deliver this project is outdoor and the contractors were designated as essential workers under level 5 Covid rules.”

Speaking during Dáil questions on proposed legislation, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said 60,000 homes would be connected this year, and work is being done to try to “regain any lost ground”.

He said there were delays related to Covid, getting permission to erect poles and difficulties in getting staff.

Meanwhile, the Public Acc- ounts Committee today experienced interruptions due to poor broadband quality while speaking about connectivity.

Fergal Mulligan, National Broadband Plan Programme Manager at the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, was speaking to TDs and senators via video link.

He experienced poor video quality and at times his contributions cut out as he
spoke.

“I’m not trying to be funny, but I’m not sure if your broadband connection is the strongest there,” Dún Laoghaire TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said.

Mr Mulligan later cut out completely.

Mark Griffin, secretary-­general at the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, said Mr Mulligan was in Wicklow and was a “man stuck in an amber area who badly needs a connection”.

Mr Griffin also told the committee that so far this year, 27,000 premises have been cleared to connect or to pre-­order a connection.

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