I will go back to the last few questions. The Deputy asked about eircodes and timing of connections over the last seven years. We all understand that the biggest bugbear for people in rural Ireland is needing to know when they are getting their connections and they need to know that from the NBI website. They do not want to be told they could be in whatever year. That is a major frustration. NBI was in front of the previous Oireachtas committee on communications and it was told in no uncertain terms that the information out there at the moment is not sufficient. It has made a commitment and it is working very hard on that. We have had meetings with NBI about improving its website and improving the visibility of eircodes, as well as premises that do not have eircodes. At the moment it is telling us that it can provide visibility for the next 18 months. We have told it that that probably is not good enough. It is certainly not good enough for anybody beyond the 18 months because they still will not know.
NBI has a challenge in that, if people are in years four, five, six or seven, it is very difficult to give them much clarity on exactly what month or even what quarter they will get a connection because the network design has not been done yet. The stuff Mr. Neary has just shown the committee on the network deployment is subject to a lot of variables in terms of interaction with Eircom or Enet, the points of handover and all those different things, on which NBI works on a yearly basis within that seven years. While it is a work in progress, everybody is absolutely clear that there is an information deficit. Everybody wants to have more information. The people who are within the 18 month period will be getting absolute clarity. The way it works is that NBI will be able to give people clarity on what quarter they are in 18 months out. At six months out, it will be able to tell them what month and then a month before the premises is ready to be serviced people will probably have a plethora of retail providers banging on their doors looking to connect them.
Over this Christmas period and into the new year, NBI is going directly out to about 19,000 of the premises in the initial five deployment areas we mentioned, which are under construction. Some 19,000 people are being told that they will get a fibre connection by April. Many of those premises will get a connection in February, March and April. That is 19,000 people who have absolute clarity on when they are getting their connections. The other 80,000 or 90,000 in the next tranche will have very good visibility. For example, I am hopefully going to get a connection in the third or fourth quarter of next year. That information is good for people in my area because one knows that it will happen in 2021. NBI appreciates that it is not all about just the month, the day or the week. People just want to know what time on the horizon it is at all. We are working on NBI giving information for people who are in 2021 and 2022, and 2023 if possible. Beyond that, it is a real challenge. The challenge is twofold insofar as we could end up telling people they are in year seven but hopefully we will get them back into year four or year five. It would be a mistake to tell people that they are in year seven if we can bring them forward, and that is the ambition.
That comes to the Deputy' next question on whether we can make this go faster. The ambition is to give people as much information as possible. I am optimistic that NBI will have a much better website in the new year and I am optimistic about the communications channels it is using in parallel to the website. This is very difficult in the Covid environment but it is going to every local authority and every stakeholder, be it Irish Rural Link or the Oireachtas. It needs to go to every stakeholder across rural Ireland and communicate to them what is happening, like Mr. Neary did for Galway. It must do that in every area and that is what it is doing. NBI was in Clare this week with the local authority there going through all this and it has already been in a number of other local authorities. That is a work in progress. If Covid-19 had not happened, the contract required NBI to do town hall events and go through the country with road shows and explainers and everything else but again, those personal events were not possible. When restrictions are lifted that road show will start again. The NBI team would be heavily engaged in that and it has a big team involved in the communications area. Let us wait and see how the next few months go. We in the Department are putting a lot of pressure on NBI on behalf of the Oireachtas to get that information out there. We are working closely with it and we have a communications team on both our side and its side who are working diligently on that.
The Deputy asked when the contract period started. The effective date was 9 January 2020. That is when it started and when it all kicked off. We signed it on 19 November 2019 and the effective date was 9 January 2020. The seven years started from January 2020. Contract year one is until the end of this coming January, and so on and so forth for the next seven years. NBI is contracted to build this network within seven years. Every deployment plan has to be done within that seven years and there are clear milestones set out in the contract. The ask is whether it can it be brought forward. There is clear ambition in the programme for Government to seek to accelerate this roll-out insofar as possible and in particular to bring those people in years 7 and 6 and those most in need forward. Some people are reasonably satisfied with their broadband service but there are many people who are not and they cannot function or work remotely.
That is where the broadband connection points, BCPs, with all their faults, come in. They can help farmers who might want to buy and sell at farmers' marts if they cannot do it from home or can be used if people want to upload or download videos, or an architect wants to upload or download designs. There are now BCPs within reasonable proximity of every premises in the country where heretofore there were not. By the end of this year there will be more than 200 of them in community halls, parish halls and other community centres. The Michael Cusack centre was opened in Clare last Friday and according to digiclare.ie, instead of four digital hubs Clare County Council now has seven or eight. Again, that is with the benefit of NBP wind behind it. We have now 75 schools connected which heretofore were not and 690 will be connected by the end of 2022.
A huge amount of progress is being made and that communications machine is ramping up and getting better, getting the message out there about what is happening, where it is happening and when. I cannot say at the moment whether we can bring it forward from seven years because there is a massive amount of work to get around to be able to say with any clarity that we can bring this forward by a year or two. There are many people working hard on that as we speak within my team, within the NBI team and with their partners because NBI cannot do this without their partners, be they Eir, ESB, or other network providers. Many people are in discussions around what can be done to make this process faster. That is absolutely on the radar. We hope to have positive news on that in the next quarter or two but it would be a dereliction of my obligations to say I can absolutely do that because that would be setting false expectations at this stage. When we know more we will absolutely let people know and it is a top priority of the Government to get this done quicker.
The final question Deputy Ó Cuív asked was on the subsidy. The gross amount approved by the Government was €2.9 billion. At the time, that included €355 million of VAT. The Revenue Commissioners have since confirmed to us that at least €250 million of that is no longer applied so €250 million of the €2.9 billion is no longer relevant. The €2.9 billion was brought to the Government in 2019 based on a prudent estimate of what the VAT might be but since then we have gotten clarification from the Revenue Commissioners that the majority of that VAT is not relevant to the NBP and the Department's Vote. The €480 million, which was a contingency pot on top of the €2.1 billion, has not been drawn down.
We are optimistic and hopeful that a large majority of that will not be required or necessary but, again, we are only in year one of a seven-year build, so it would be premature to say where we will be in five years time on that. At the moment, as Peter Hendrick, the CEO of NBI stated at the last Oireachtas committee meeting, he is very confident it will remain on time and within budget, and the budget at the moment is €2.1 billion. If it requires drawdown of contingencies, there are very strict rules and parameters within the contract as to the basis on which it can do that.
We are all reasonably optimistic that that will happen. The pandemic, for all its ills and all the carnage it has created, has given some breathing space to NBI insofar as the commercial investment that might otherwise have been going on in fibre build is not happening, and there is more capacity with fibre build network contractors and fibre materials and so on. I hope that will be to the benefit of the cost of the project. It is certainly not something that has seen any cost overruns so far and that is certainly not something we see happening in the short to medium term. We are quite optimistic on that front. Hopefully, I will be sitting here in five or six years time with a clear picture on that because we will know an awful lot more. That is the story on the subsidy.