Public Ownership of the National Broadband Network: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Sean Sherlock on Wednesday, 23 October 2019:
That Dáil Éireann:
—notes the Report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment entitled ‘Report on an investigation to examine the National Broadband Plan process thus far and how best to proceed and the best means to roll out rural broadband’, which was laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas on the 27th August, 2019;
—endorses the view of the Oireachtas Joint Committee that:
—high speed broadband is a vital piece of infrastructure for rural Ireland and should be provided as quickly as possible, to the same standard as is available commercially in other parts of the country, at the same cost to consumers as elsewhere and at best value to the taxpayer; and
—the broadband network infrastructure should be under the ownership of the State, as it is strategically important; and
—resolves that public moneys should not be expended on any proposed broadband telecommunications network unless such a network is, or is to be, owned by a Minister of the Government or a public body on behalf of the people.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 2:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:
agrees that:
- without high speed broadband, 1.1 million people, mostly living in rural Ireland, will not have access to high speed broadband, and will be left behind;
- without high speed broadband it will be significantly more difficult to attract new jobs to rural areas and develop new enterprise opportunities and it will be more difficult to retain the jobs that currently exist in these areas;
- you cannot sustain a healthy democracy if there are major groups of people who feel they are being left behind;
- without high speed broadband, it will be impossible for rural Ireland to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented by the digital economy, from healthcare to farming, and from education to agriculture, rural development and tourism; and
- without high speed broadband, remote working, which would allow people to have more flexible working arrangements, and to reduce their carbon footprint and urban sprawl by reducing the numbers commuting to large cities, will not be possible;
notes that:
- the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment is considering the recent report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment in relation to the National Broadband Plan (NBP) and will revert to the Government shortly in relation to the recommendations in the Committee report;
- the advice of the Attorney General is that it is not legally possible to change the 2016 ownership decision within the current procurement process;
- cancelling the current procurement process, starting again and getting to the point at which contracts can be signed could take at a minimum three years and up to five years, with no guarantee of a successful outcome, in which case the roll-out of high speed broadband may not commence until 2026 and may not be completed until 2032, which would only serve to deepen the digital divide that exists in this country;
- in appointing a preferred bidder, the Government considered a number of alternative options to delivering the NBP, including changing the ownership model, and that from that work, it was clear that the analysis showed that all of the alternative options identified would take longer to reach 100 per cent of the Intervention Area premises compared to the current plan (or in some cases 100 per cent would never be achieved), and that:
- it may be more costly;
- in most cases would require a consultation on a new strategy as well as a new procurement process and State-aid application; and
- it may not provide the level of future proofing required under the European Commission’s strategy, Connectivity for a European Gigabit Society;
- the then Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, commenced a public consultation in July 2015 on the Intervention Strategy for the NBP, which included consideration of five alternative ownership options, and that the then Minister in December 2015 recommended to the Government two possible ownership options, one of which was the gap-funded model, and then established an interdepartmental group to recommend the best way to proceed;
- an inter-departmental group reviewed the appropriate ownership model and based on this review the Department recommended the gap-funded model, and that it was then adopted by the Government in July 2016; and
- the State can receive 40 per cent of the value of the National Broadband Network at the end of the contract, without any of the risk associated with owning 146,000 kilometres of fibre wire that have been hanging on rented infrastructure for 25 or 35 years; and
calls on the Government to proceed to sign the National Broadband Plan Contract as soon as possible, as the 1.1 million people mostly living in rural Ireland have waited long enough to get connected to a service which is, or will be, freely available to virtually every person in towns and cities across Ireland.
- (Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment)

I must now deal with a postponed division relating to the motion on Public Ownership of the National Broadband Network. On Wednesday, 23 October 2019, on the question that amendment No. 2 to the motion be agreed to, a division was claimed and in accordance with Standing Order 70(2), that division must be taken now.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 49; Níl, 87; Staon, 0.

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, James.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Curran, John.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Seán Kyne and Tony McLoughlin; Níl, Deputies Brendan Ryan and Jan O'Sullivan.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

“accepts the Report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment entitled ‘Report on an investigation to examine the National Broadband Plan process thus far and how best to proceed and the best means to roll-out rural broadband’;

notes that:

— high speed broadband is a vital piece of public infrastructure for rural towns and communities;

— the National Broadband Plan (NBP) is fatally flawed;

— KPMG, in recommending that the private sector design, build, operate and own the infrastructure, stated that this would be the least expensive option and would rank highest on deliverability of objectives, however, this recommendation has utterly failed in that regard;

— a fundamental weakness in the process was the decision to continue with the private sector ‘design, build, operate and own’ model with one bidder;

— the private sector risk in the NBP project is practically non-existent, undermining the rationale for the design of the tender;

— every bidder that has direct experience of building networks and providing broadband services has walked away from the NBP;

— the previous Fine Gael - Labour coalition Government fully endorsed this fundamentally flawed process;

— a State-led approach is a realistic option for the roll-out of rural broadband, were the present process to be scrapped;

— the use of Electricity Supply Board (ESB) infrastructure remains a credible option for the delivery of the NBP;

— high speed broadband in our rural towns, villages and communities is absolutely necessary in order to halt the decline of rural Ireland; and

— there is no justification for the network developed under the NBP to be owned by the minority private investor instead of the majority public investor; and

calls on the Government to:

— accept that the State must now intervene in the NBP and deliver for our rural towns, villages and communities;

— re-engage with the ESB as a matter of urgency to examine the best model for delivery of a new NBP through the ESB infrastructure; and

— accept that all infrastructure developed through the NBP must remain in public ownership.”

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 27; Níl, 106; Staon, 4.

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.

Níl

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Curran, John.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Staon

  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Denise Mitchell; Níl, Deputies Brendan Ryan and Jan O'Sullivan.
Amendment declared.
Question put: "That the motion be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 87; Níl, 50; Staon, 0.

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, James.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Curran, John.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.

Níl

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Brendan Ryan and Sean Sherlock; Níl, Deputies Seán Kyne and Tony McLoughlin.
Question declared carried.