The purpose of the National Broadband Plan is to ensure that over 1.1 million of our citizens in rural Ireland have the same opportunity to participate in the digital society as citizens living in urban areas. The availability of ubiquitous high speed broadband will bring significant benefits in areas of e-Health, e-Education, smart farming, regional development and tourism. As the Deputy may be aware, following rigorous evaluation by my Department, I brought a recommendation to Government to confer Preferred Bidder status on Granahan McCourt, the remaining bidder in the NBP procurement process and the Government agreed to this at its meeting on 7 May.
This is an important step towards achieving the overarching goal of the National Broadband Plan, which is to provide access to high speed broadband to every home, farm, school and business in Ireland, no matter where they are located.
The Government decision means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to National Broadband Ireland, subject to contract close, including the finalisation of financial and legal documents. A period of final due diligence on all elements of the contract is part of the normal conclusion of a procurement process. A number of additional elements need to be concluded before the contract can be signed.
For example, NBI will be supported by a number of experienced subcontractors and is currently tasked with finalising negotiations on contracts with approximately 40 subcontractors to assist in the delivery of the NBP. In order to support deployment it is anticipated that a subset of approximately 15 to 20 of these subcontracts will be required prior to contract close. It is also necessary to submit the State Aid notification in relation to the NBP to the European Commission.
It is anticipated these elements will require a number of months, with contract close expected in late 2019 and deployment commencing shortly after that.
The Bidder has indicated that the NBP State intervention will take an estimated 7 years from the beginning of deployment
In the first year of roll out, the Bidder will deploy approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) across all counties. It is anticipated that between 7 and 23 BCPs will be deployed in each county. BCPs will provide a community based high speed broadband service, enhancing online participation and allowing for the establishment of digital work hubs in these locations. The Bidder is aiming to pass 133,000 premises by the end of the second year, with 70-100,000 passed each year thereafter until roll out is completed.