For the avoidance of doubt I reiterate Fianna Fáil's position, which is that we fully support the rapid roll-out of high-speed broadband to the 542,000 homes, farms, schools and business premises dotted throughout rural and semi-rural parts of this country. The Government announcement on broadband, within two weeks of the local and European elections, does not indicate a rapid roll-out, and the plan does not represent a transparent, value for money proposition for the taxpayer. It is an attempt by the Taoiseach to portray Fine Gael as the champion of rural dwellers. If people had any doubts about the motives behind the timing of this announcement, their suspicions will have been confirmed the following morning when each Member of this House was presented with a glossy pack specific to each constituency outlining the relevant positive aspects of the announcement to assist Fine Gael representatives attempting to convince rural voters on the doorsteps over the final days of an election campaign. It is a rather bizarre move when no contract has been signed and when we are told by Government that it may not be signed for a further six months. In fact, there are real concerns as to whether it will ever be signed.
I assume that at this stage the Tánaiste has realised this spin just will not wash with those people who have been waiting patiently for the broadband they have been promised on numerous occasions. The announcement is, in fact, a further betrayal of rural dwellers. Far from being a breakthrough, this announcement confirms further delay in broadband delivery on top of the many delays already experienced. The Fine Gael manifesto promised high-speed broadband to 100% of homes, farms, and business premises by 2020 but this week's announcement is a confirmation that this will not happen until 2027. That is the best case scenario; it is more likely to take much longer. Could it be 2030 or 2040?
Today's edition of The Irish Times carries another leak from a Government source that indicates the total cost of the broadband project will be approximately €5 billion. It is clear that the motivation behind this leak is to imply that Granahan McCourt is investing €2 billion. However, any analysis of the redacted memo from the Secretary General, Mr. Watt, would conclude that the actual capital to be invested by Granahan McCourt is much less. Will the Tánaiste confirm that there is no commercial impediment to the publication of this figure? Will he outline to the House what that number is?
Over recent days the Taoiseach and a number of Ministers have sought to play down the value of the asset at the end of the 25-year period. This assertion is entirely disingenuous as their comments have concentrated on the value of the physical infrastructure after 25 years. Will the Tánaiste confirm that the real value at the end of the intervention period is the monopoly access to a customer base which, by the Government's projections, comprises more than 400,000 homes and premises? These homes and premises will have no alternative but to use this infrastructure, for which they will pay a monthly fee. Will he also confirm that Granahan McCourt's investment will be paid back after eight years and will continue to earn substantial returns over the remaining 17 years? Will he further confirm that, in the end, it will own the network and the potential revenue generated by those 400,000 customers while the taxpayer will have no stake and will receive no return on the investment?