For many years, parts of rural Ireland, businesses and homes have been without any broadband connectivity. Back in 2012 when the then Minister, Pat Rabbitte, announced the national broadband plan, he was very clear that there would be a minimum of 30 megabits per second for every remaining home and business in the country, no matter how rural or remote. Every year since, Ministers have consistently repeated that. From 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2018, the language used in different announcements was one of the near future - within weeks and so on. We were told there would be a broadband announcement within weeks last November and that has been repeated subsequently.
Yesterday, the Taoiseach announced in the House that the cost of the investment in the broadband contract to the taxpayer would be €3 billion. Last week the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment said he could not talk about it at all because the matter had not been finalised. We had been told for months that it had not been finalised yet out of the blue yesterday the Taoiseach was in a position to announce formally the cost to the taxpayer would be €3 billion.
From the start, the bidders in this process were led to believe that the maximum taxpayer subvention was €500 million. That has now ballooned to €3 billion. The Taoiseach needs to explain how we have gone so dramatically from €500 million to €3 billion in the cost to the taxpayer. Has the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform analysed this? What is his role and that of the Department in analysing this process? We on this side of the House have not been presented with comprehensive information.
Will the Taoiseach also confirm that at the end of the process, the asset will not be owned by the State, notwithstanding the expenditure of €3 billion?
Will the Taoiseach comment on the capacity of the Granahan McCourt Capital consortium to manage a project of this scale and size? Is the Government satisfied that it has the necessary experience and expertise to deliver a project of this magnitude?
Taking the Taoiseach's comments yesterday as confirmation of the award, is the Government satisfied that the consortium is the same consortium which originally bid? Have the legal issues in relation to the competitive tendering process been sorted out?
The fundamental question relates to the Taoiseach's announcement that the plan would cost taxpayers €3 billion when all along people were led to believe the cost to the taxpayer would be €500 million.