National Broadband Plan "under threat" say Fianna Fáil as SSE pulls out of bid
The National Broadband Plan appears to be in jeopardy following dramatic developments on Saturday.
RTÉ reports that SSE, which is part of the Enet consortium that represented the only bidder to deliver the government's plan, has pulled out of the tendering process.
The National Broadband Plan, first mooted in 2012, aims to introduce and establish high speed broadband services to all business and households across Ireland.
Eir previously withdrew from the process earlier this year.
Consortium chairman David McCourt noted in a statement that his group is "considering and reviewing structures" with regard to the "optimum response to the tender process".
McCourt went on to underline Enet's commitment to the country and to the government's vision, adding that the consortium "has always understood the criticality of the project to the State".
Enet's final bid submission is due in the coming weeks, with McCourt anticipating a "successful conclusion" in the near future.
A statement from Fianna Fáil Communications Spokesperson Timmy Dooley TD heavily criticised the latest developments, arguing that "the viability of the National Broadband Plan is now under threat to such an extent that it is conceivable that no contract will be signed this side of 2020."
“Reports are emerging that SSE has informed fellow Enet consortium partners that it is pulling out from the tendering process," noted Dooley.
"As of yet, SSE has not outlined its reasons for pulling out but it’s clear as night follows day that the process has to date been so convoluted and bureaucratic that every major commercial player has not felt comfortable continuing.
“With ESB, Vodafone, Eir and now SSE all out, what hope is there for the 520,000 households in isolated and rural communities that they will see their homes and businesses connected in the next six to eight years?"
Dooley went on to question why Enet has not to date been announced as the preferred bidder by the government, given that they have been the sole remaining bidder since the spring.
“Minister Naughten must confirm when he became aware of SSE’s decision, and what his plans are into the future," argued the Fianna Fáil TD.
“Last February, Fianna Fáil put forward a comprehensive private members motion, which when passed by the Dáil called for a full independent expert review of the tendering process for the Broadband Plan.
"It should have been completed but the Government has failed to fulfil the wishes of the Dáil. This was, and remains, a major error on the part of Minister Naughten.
“When Eir pulled out, I, and many others, questioned the viability and suitability of continuing with the existing process. The Minister poured scorn repeatedly on our position, but nothing since then has increased my confidence in the deliverability of the National Broadband Plan as currently conceived.
“We need to hear from the Minister as to his next steps to ensure that the over half a million homes, businesses and farms get a quality broadband connection at a fair price,” concluded Dooley.