Following my appointment as Minister, I looked at a number of alternatives in detail before deciding to recommend to Government the appointment of preferred bidder. Those options are available to be looked at online at www.gov.ie/nbp. Any alternative that aims to deliver high speed broadband across the country would delay the process by at least another two to three years, would not be any more cost effective, would not deliver the objectives of the NBP and could involve the State taking on greater risk.
The possibility of allocating the National Broadband State intervention to the ESB was considered as part of the alternative options analysis conducted by my Department. The Attorney General has advised that there are significant legal risks in relation to both procurement law and state aid law, if the State was to mandate and fund directly outside a procurement process any economic undertaking, including a commercial semi-state body such as the ESB, to carry out the National Broadband Plan.
Furthermore, engagement between officials of my Department and DG Competition, which is the Directorate General of the European Commission with responsibility for State Aid matters, has clearly established that it is the view of DG Competition that it would not be possible to provide a State subsidy to an economic undertaking, such as the ESB, to roll out the National Broadband Plan without undertaking a new public procurement process.
However, the ESB pole network may still be used by National Broadband Ireland where this represents the most effective use of existing infrastructure at a local deployment level.
While I have not met with the ESB directly in relation to high speed broadband, my officials have engaged extensively with ESB in relation to this matter.