I propose to take Questions Nos. 151, 159 and 161 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 554,000 premises, including almost 100,000 businesses and farms along with some 679 schools.
I appreciate people's frustration when they are living so close to a fibre network but cannot get a connection to that network, particularly given the heightened importance of connectivity during the Covid-19 pandemic. The NBP will ensure that in all such cases a future proofed high speed broadband network will be built to serve these premises and work to deliver on this is underway.
Despite the unprecedented challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, NBI has made steady progress on delivery of the new high speed fibre broadband network under the National Broadband Plan with almost 35,000 premises available to order and pre-order across 13 counties (Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Louth, Monaghan, Roscommon, Tipperary, Wexford and Wicklow). NBI has advised that over 282,000 premises in the Intervention Area across all counties have been surveyed and build work is underway for more than 120,000 premises, demonstrating the project is reaching scale.
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.
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
The focus for 2022 is to continue to deliver momentum in the build programme, catch up on the delays experienced and plan for acceleration. Final targets for 2022 are expected to be agreed early in the new year.