I propose to take Questions Nos. 2231, 2253 and 2283 together.
I have not met with eir following its appearance before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on 25 June.
Following on from eir’s appearance before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on 28 June, and its subsequent letter to the Department dated 28 June, my Department, in consultation with its advisors and with ComReg, has concluded that the information outlined in the letter does not represent a feasible alternative to the National Broadband Plan (NBP) and has no impact on the decision to appoint a preferred bidder for the NBP. It should also be noted that eir makes it clear in their letter of 28 June that their evidence before the Committee and their letter do not represent "a formal offer designed to replace or supersede the current NBP procurement process "
- The objectives of the NBP Strategy approved by Government in December 2015 and signed up to by bidders through the participation in the procurement process, are as follows:
- High speed broadband should be provided to 100% of premises in the country
- There needs to be strong protections for the State with full transparency of where the State Subsidy is being directed
- There needs to be equal access for all commercial retail providers to the network
- A future proofed network should be provided so that a digital divide between urban and rural areas does not re-emerge; and
- Prices should be affordable for users – both for connections and products.
These, along with the application of value for money principles, have underpinned the procurement process since December 2015.
eir was one of the final bidders to the National Broadband Plan and under these terms, made a draft bid of €2.75billion (ex VAT) before making the decision to withdraw from the process. The evidence presented by eir both in the Committee and in their subsequent letter to the Department does not meet the above objectives and contains material which has already been raised and considered during eir’s participation in the procurement process.
At its meeting on 17 July, Government noted the significant progress made by my Department and the Preferred Bidder, National Broadband Ireland in finalising the necessary legal and financial documents required for contract close.
In a response sent to eir by my Department, following the Government meeting, it was outlined that the provision of a State subsidy to any company without competition is not legal under procurement and State Aid rules, nor would it meet the key objectives of the National Broadband Plan.
My Department will continue to engage with eir as part of its monitoring of eir's rural 300k deployment under the Commitment Agreement signed with my Department. As at Q1 2019 eir has delivered high speed broadband to 250,965 premises nationwide. According to information provided by eir to my Department, it plans to pass the remaining premises later in 2019.