In 2012, the then Government led by Fine Gael promised to provide high-speed broadband to 100% of homes and businesses by 2020. The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources at that time, Pat Rabbitte, had humble expectations and estimated the cost at €350 million. In 2013, the tendering process began and his successor, Alex White, announced a new strategy, with the cost estimated at €500 million. In 2016, the Government announced it would deliver high-speed broadband to 85% of premises of premises by 2018 and 100% by 2020.
As we know, the tendering process has been very difficult and a bit of a nightmare. SIRO withdrew because of Eir's decision to expand its offering to 300,000 more premises. There was a debacle in October with the resignation of the former Minister, Deputy Naughten, because of a series of meetings and dinners with the final remaining bidder, Mr. David McCourt of Enet. Enet was subsequently taken over by the State-backed Irish Infrastructure Fund, IIF. Eir had previously announced its withdrawal from the process. The situation in October and November was a bit of a mess. The incoming Minister, Deputy Bruton, stated that he would bring a recommendation to Cabinet within weeks regarding the Enet submission, notwithstanding that Enet had fundamentally changed its composition. From my perspective, it looked like a new consortium. It is the remaining bidder.
Meanwhile, many tracts of the country are without a technology that is essential for new industries, businesses and the daily activities of life and commerce. In November, the Taoiseach estimated that approximately 540,000 homes or 1 million people were without high-speed broadband. New figures released by the Central Statistics Office, CSO, today indicate that, for example, only 58% of people in County Leitrim have access to broadband.
It has been a tortuously slow process, with numerous promises made and not fulfilled. The only activity has been in the private sector. When will the Government make a decision regarding the remaining tender submission by Enet? The Taoiseach indicated before Christmas that the cost would be a multiple of what was originally estimated. Is there a current estimated cost of the Enet bid were it to be accepted by Government? To what degree is it impacted by the recent statement by Eir that it wishes to bring fibre to an additional 80,000 homes and the proposal by Imagine to bring wireless technology to 500,000 homes? Will the size of the intervention area be reduced even further, leading to higher costs?