Sinn Féin TD for Meath East, Darrren O’Rourke, says he is very frustrated with the rate of rollout of the National Broadband Plan and believes an update provided to the Oireachtas Communications and Transport Committee by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) will provide very little solace to people in Co. Meath.
In response to questions from Deputy O’Rourke, NBI indicated that they expect to have 2,640 premises (out of 19,000) ready for connection in the county by the end of this year.
He told Meath Live, “Last week, NBI were before the Oireachtas Communications and Transport Committee to address missed targets and delays in broadband rollout, and also to discuss recent reports regarding the labyrinthine governance and financing structures at the company.
“Previously NBI told us that they intended to ‘pass’ (make broadband available) to 60,000 homes by the end of January 2022. This was reduced down from the initial target of 115,000, in light of the challenge of Covid, and following discussions with the Department of Climate and Communications. However, it has now emerged that the 60,000 figure will not be reached until the end of March – meaning further delay.
“Regarding the rollout in Meath, we know that there are roughly 19,000 premises in the NBI ‘intervention area’ in the county, and that not one home has been connected so far. In responses to questions from me, the Chief Executive Officer at NBI Deployment, TJ Malone, indicated that 50% of intervention area premises in the county are surveyed (the first step in the process). By the end of the year NBI expect this to be in the region of 83-85%. They further indicate that they have 14% of the build commenced and by the end of the year they expect to have about 45% in the ‘built or under construction’ phase. This  equates to 8,310 premises. Of this, they expect that 2,640 premises in the county will be ‘passed’ and ready for connection. At that stage, NBI will be going into the fourth year of a seven year programme and they will still be behind the targets set out in the initial contract. This is very frustrating for people struggling with poor coverage.
“Regarding subsequent years, NBI confirmed that they intend to have 60% of premises built or under construction by the end of 2023 and 95% built or under construction by the end of 2024.  However, these targets are very dependent on NBI’s ability to speed up the rate of rollout, and also raise the question about the difference between ‘built’ and ‘under construction’. ‘Built’ is the all-important measure.
“NBI say they are working along with Eir (who own much of the existing infrastructure) to speed up the rollout, and may need some intervention from the regulator, ComReg, in this regard. They also say they are exploring new “self-install” technology that would help.
“I do welcome the fact that NBI say that some of the earlier barriers to smooth rollout – such as engagement with local authorities and rules regarding polling – have been largely addressed, but they don’t account for all of the delays.
“The National Broadband Plan is undoubtedly complex but the responsibility for its rollout lies with NBI and they are well paid for their services. Existing delays are incredibly frustrating. Future delays will be inexcusable. The plan needs to get back on track.”