A number of issues were raised, but I will take Deputy Smith's point on rural electrification first. I use that analogy. When Ardnacrusha was built, the Government of the day was told it was mad and that the amount of electricity generated at Ardnacrusha would never be used because there would never be that much demand. Today, Ardnacrusha produces 1% of our total electricity usage. It was far-seeing at the time. I use that analogy because the programme transformed rural Ireland. I do not doubt that when broadband goes down every single boreen, it will transform rural Ireland.
The Deputy is correct, though. Rural electrification was done by a State company that owned the assets, and it took more than 20 years to build out that network across the country. I am not prepared to wait 20 years for people to get access to broadband. I want to see this happen yesterday. I want it to happen at every crossroads, village and isolated farmhouse throughout Ireland as quickly as possible. That is why I am not prepared to go down that particular road. The reality is that, on foot of our interventions, 900,000 premises will get access to pure fibre.
I am being criticised for not providing a date. I will not do so because this is the most complex contract of its type every constructed anywhere in the globe in terms of rural broadband. All my colleagues across Europe are watching to see what we are doing. Professor Vint Cerf, who was here last May and is one of the founders of the Internet, acknowledged that what we were doing was pioneering and had never been done anywhere else. Just like when we brought electricity to every single home, we were the first country in the world to do that. Just like when Senator Leyden and his colleagues digitised the telephone system, we were the first country in the world to do that. That we are the first country doing this does mean that it takes a bit longer. When many of us are gone from the Houses, I do not want my name to be bandied around here because, like electronic voting machines, the national broadband scheme failed to deliver even though a great deal of money was invested in it. I want to ensure the scheme is like rural electrification and digitisation, which have stood the test of time. This contract, when signed, will stand the test of time.
I have written down my reply to Deputy Stanley just in case I am misquoted. He stated that the game was over and there was no competition within the process. Deputy Smith spoke about this being a major blow, but it is nothing of the sort. It is disappointing and I would have liked to have had three bidders, including the ESB, but the ESB has taken a commercial decision because it believes that there are greater opportunities in bringing broadband to provincial towns in rural Ireland. Does this affect the bidding process? No, it does not. Does it affect the competition? No, it does not. That is because we have two very good bidders in the process, one of which has considerable international connections, a global history in this sector, and significant capital and a major electricity company that is involved in telecoms in the UK behind it. Granahan McCourt Capital, which is known internationally for its telecoms experience, has Enet, which operates the State-owned broadband backbone throughout the country. I commend Enet on working to bring that together.
Twenty years ago when no one else was talking about broadband, I was talking about it in this Chamber. I know the issue as it relates to every rural community. I want to ensure every home, no matter how isolated, gets broadband not one day later than is absolutely necessary. That is why we are working with mobile and wireless companies to provide people with a broadband service today. That all of this fibre is being built out on a commercial basis allows us to bring hot desks to villages and wireless and mobile services to greater parts of rural Ireland.
I must put something on the record regarding Deputy Stanley's comments on the Eir contract.
The state aid rules require that any State-led intervention in this sector does not disrupt commercial investment. In this regard, the national broadband plan's State intervention is designed to intervene only in areas where there is no existing high-speed broadband infrastructure and where there are no concrete plans to roll out such infrastructure in the near future. Those are the rules I must comply with. If I do not, then colleagues of Senator McDowell will take me to the High Court and the European Court of Justice, thus delaying this process along the lines of the 20 years that it took to roll out rural electrification. I am not going to accept that. Yes, I have to be careful and tread carefully through this process, as does the procurement team, and we are doing so. We have and will have a robust contract that will not only stand the test of time for every single rural home and business in Ireland. The service will stand the test of time for every single rural dweller across the globe because we, again, will be the global leaders in this sector. We will deliver the programme and it will deliver for every single home. I guarantee the committee that it will happen and that it will not take one day longer than is absolutely necessary.
Deputy Stanley used the analogy of reclaiming and draining 840,000 acres of land but cherry-picking the best 300,000 acres. First, one must install drainage pipes one way or the other and they must have a capacity to drain the rest of the land, which is happening at the moment. As he well knows, there is no point draining land unless one diverts the entire river away from the land thus allowing the water to get away. The expensive part is building the infrastructure to the land and ensuring the shores are cleaned and drained until one reaches the river. All the preparatory work has been done and the drainage pipes have been put down in the field.