I propose to take Question Nos 57, 71 and 75 together.
The National Broadband Plan (NBP) State led Intervention will be delivered by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) under a contract to roll out a high speed and future proofed broadband network within the Intervention Area which covers 1.1 million people living and working in the over 544,000 premises, including almost 100,000 businesses and farms along with some 699 schools.
In addition to the challenges to the delivery of the NBP due to the Covid-19 pandemic, NBI has faced a range of other challenges due to the sheer scale and complexity of rolling out fibre to the home in a rural environment. These include significant tree trimming to ensure cable can be placed on overhead poles, remediation of ducting that has been in place for many decades, the co-ordination of hundreds of contracting crews and addressing the many issues arising week on week which could not have been foreseen until the build crews commenced work on the ground. My Department has worked closely with NBI to put in place a remedial plan under the Contract. This plan addresses delays experienced by NBI, primarily arising as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and re-baselines milestones for 2021. In line with the remedial plan for 2021, NBI is targeting to have almost 60,000 premises passed and available for connection by the end of 2021. Work is underway to re-baseline milestones for 2022 and beyond.
NBI has implemented a number of measures to help lessen the impact that these challenges have had on the rollout including:
- Increasing the rate of pole replacement and duct remediation per month;
- Bringing in additional NBI resources;
- Earlier procurement of material used in the build stages; and
- Bringing in additional subcontractors
Despite the unprecedented challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, National Broadband Ireland has made steady progress on delivery of the new high speed fibre broadband network under the National Broadband Plan with over 30,000 premises available to order and pre-order across 11 counties (Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Monaghan, Roscommon, Tipperary and Wicklow). In total, over 272,000 premises in the Intervention Area across all counties have been surveyed, with over 115,000 premises under construction across 30 Deployment areas.
It remains the ambition of the Government to rollout the National Broadband Plan as quickly as possible. My Department continues to engage with NBI to explore the feasibility of accelerating aspects of the NBP rollout to establish the possibility of bringing forward premises which are currently scheduled in years 6 and 7 of the current plan to an earlier date. However, the primary focus must be on addressing the delays which have arisen and ensuring that the National Broadband Ireland build programme gets back on track and is building momentum month on month.