I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 30 together.
As I have previously informed the House, my Department has recently received the submission of a final tender from the bidder in the National Broadband Plan procurement process. This is a significant milestone and brings Ireland a step closer to realising the ambitious goals of the NBP, which is to bring a high speed broadband connection to every premises in the country.
The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. Evaluation of the final tender submission is ongoing and will be allowed the time required. On conclusion of the evaluation, my Department will make a recommendation to me on whether to appoint the bidder as preferred bidder and I will bring the matter to Government for decision.
There are just over 101,000 premises in Co Donegal. Commercial operators are providing, or have indicated plans to provide high speed broadband to approximately 61,600 of these premises. eir has plans to deliver access to high speed broadband to a further 5,000 premises in Donegal as part of its ongoing rural fibre deployment.
The remaining approximately 34,400 premises, some 33% of all premises in Donegal, will be included in the network to be built under the National Broadband Plan State led intervention.
This Government has set the bar high through its ambitious National Broadband Plan. Commercial operators have reacted to Government setting out its aim that every premises in Ireland would have access to a high speed broadband network. When this Government came into office in 2016, only 48% of premises in Donegal had access to a high speed broadband service. Today, 61% of premises in Donegal have access to a high speed broadband service and this is set to increase in the months ahead.
The Government’s objective for the NBP are being realised through a combination of commercial investment and the State intervention. The commitment by Government has acted as a catalyst in encouraging very significant investment by commercial operators in deployment of high speed broadband networks.
In addition to the eir rural fibre deployment, other commercial operators are investing significantly in rolling out high speed broadband infrastructure throughout Ireland. For example, SIRO has committed €450 million to providing fibre broadband to 500,000 regional homes and businesses in 51 towns across Ireland, including in County Donegal. SIRO currently offers high speed broadband services in Letterkenny and has plans for Ballybofey, Ballyshannon, Buncrana, Bundoran and Donegal Town.