The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to deliver high speed services to every city, town, village and individual premises in Ireland. The Programme for a Partnership Government commits to the delivery of the NBP as a matter of priority. This is being achieved through private investment by commercial telecommunications companies and through a State intervention in areas where commercial investment is not forthcoming.
The High Speed Broadband Map 2020, which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie shows the extent of the State Intervention area, which is the subject of procurement. The areas marked BLUE represent those areas where commercial providers are either currently delivering or have plans to deliver high speed broadband services. The Department continues to monitor the commercial deployment plans in the BLUE area where commercial operators have committed to providing services, to ensure that those services are delivered. The areas marked AMBER on the High Speed Broadband Map represent the target areas for the State Intervention. The map provides information on a county by county basis with a breakdown of coverage across the townlands in every county.
Over 750,000 premises are the focus of the procurement process, which formally commenced in December 2015 with the publication of the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire ( 'PQQ') and Project Information Memorandum. Five responses were received from prospective bidders to this stage of the competitive procurement process by the deadline of 31 March 2016. The five responses are being assessed in line with the criteria set down by the Department with a view to shortlist of qualified bidders proceeding to the next stage of procurement.
The second stage in the procurement process will be a formal invitation to Participate in Dialogue (ITPD) to shortlisted bidders. I expect that my Department will move to this stage in the next month. The third stage of the procurement process involves the issue of final tender documentation which follows the dialogue process. Following the submission of final tenders by bidders, a winning bidder(s) will be selected for the contract which will comprise one or two lots as set out in the NBP Intervention Strategy. The Department will then enter into formal contract negotiations with the winning bidder(s). It is expected that contract(s) will be awarded by June 2017.
As part of the competitive process, the Department will engage with winning bidder(s) on the best rollout strategy, in order to target areas of particularly poor service, business needs and / or high demand. This will need to be balanced with the most efficient network rollout plan. A prioritisation programme will be put in place in this regard, in consultation with the Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht. Once contract(s) are in place, I expect to publish a detailed rollout plan for the network.
The Programme for a Partnership Government commits also to measures to assist in the rollout of the network once a contract is awarded. In this regard, Minister Humphreys will lead on the establishment of county or regional broadband taskforces, working with Local Authorities, Local Enterprise Offices, LEADER Groups and other relevant agencies to help accelerate the broadband network build in rural Ireland, once contract(s) have been awarded.