Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
I have already answered the question on capacity. In some ways, something the former Minister, Deputy Naughten, said last week summed it up for me. He said that if we sign this contract in the next few months rural broadband will be delivered and we will connect 1.1 million homes, farms and businesses throughout the country but if we do not sign the contract it may never happen. He is right in this assessment.
In terms of publishing the contract, I am not sure whether it is possible. It has not been agreed, finalised or signed yet. If it is, I will have no personal difficulty with it but because it is a commercial contract perhaps it is not possible.
The Deputy is right to say it is expensive. Of course it is expensive because it is so ambitious. We want to become one of the first countries, if not the first country in the world, to connect every home, farm and business to high-speed broadband and say to people throughout rural Ireland that they will have the same speeds as those of us who live in the cities of Dublin and Cork and at the same price. This is enormously ambitious. This is why it is expensive.
One thing the Deputy said about the risk is not the case. The risk to the taxpayer is capped. The risk to the investor is not. If this works out well, if it is rolled out quickly and if there is a lot of take up, the investor will get its money back plus a return.