The state’s National Broadband Plan, which promises to connect 542,000 rural homes and businesses to fibre-grade broadband over the next three years, is to get access to €500m in EU financing from the European Investment Bank (EIB).
The move will give renewed impetus to the project, which has been beset with difficulties over the last two years.
“This is a huge vote of confidence for our plan and our work to date to bring high speed broadband to every home, business and farm in Ireland through the National Broadband Plan,” said the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten. “It is hugely significant from an Irish and a European perspective as more than half of the total financing approved by the Board of EIB relates to Ireland’s National Broadband Plan.”
While the government has not yet formally awarded the National Broadband Plan project, only one bidder — Enet — remains in the running for the state’s 25 year contract. Last year, Eir pulled out of the contest, claiming the process did not make economic sense for it any longer.
Rural premises are expected to see connections under the scheme from early 2019. The government says that access to the state-backed fibre broadband will not cost households and businesses any more than commercial services in urban areas.
The EIB is the world’s largest multilateral borrower and lender, providing finance for investment projects that feed into EU policy objectives.
“Today’s announcement provides the potential for better value for money in the cost of the network and allows for sound financial planning by both the public and private sector as we deliver on the National Broadband Plan,” said Minister Naughten. “The procurement process is now in the final stages and the EIB’s announcement provides a significant endorsement of the National Broadband Plan. It brings us a step closer to achieving the ultimate goal of the plan and delivering a personal priority for me, which is access for all, regardless of location, to high speed broadband.”