Thursday, 4 November 2021
Ceisteanna - Questions - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
National Broadband Plan
In addition to the challenges to the delivery of the national broadband plan, NBP, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, National Broadband Ireland, NBI, has faced a range of other challenges due to the sheer scale and complexity of rolling out fibre to the home in a rural environment. These include significant tree trimming to ensure cable can be placed on overhead poles, remediation of ducting that has been in place for many decades, the co-ordination of hundreds of contracting crews and addressing the many issues arising weekly which could not have been foreseen until the building crews commenced work on the ground. My Department has worked closely with NBI to put in place a remedial plan under the contract. The plan addresses delays experienced by NBI, primarily arising as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and set new baselines for milestones for 2021. Work is underway to set new baselines for milestones for 2022 and beyond.
NBI has implemented a number of measures to help lessen the impact that these challenges have had on the roll-out including increasing the rate of pole replacement and duct remediation per month, bringing in additional NBI resources, earlier procurement of material used in the build stages and bringing in additional subcontractors. Despite the unprecedented challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, National Broadband Ireland has made steady progress on delivery of the new high-speed fibre broadband network under the National Broadband Plan with over 30,000 premises available to order and pre-order across 11 counties. It remains the ambition of the Government to roll out the National Broadband Plan as quickly as possible. My Department continues to engage with NBI to explore the feasibility of accelerating aspects of the NBP roll-out to establish the possibility of bringing forward premises which are currently scheduled in years six and seven of the current plan to an earlier date. However, the primary focus must be on addressing the delays which have arisen and ensuring that the National Broadband Ireland building programme gets back on track and is building momentum month on month.
It is good that NBI is coming to Oireachtas committees and being directly cross-examined so that its testimony can line up with what we are saying. It is essential that we make progress on the national broadband plan. I work on it every day.