I propose to take Questions Nos. 68 and 73 together.
The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure high speed broadband access to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location. This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment and a State led intervention.
The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. In 2012, less than 700,000, or 30% of all 2.4 million Irish premises had access to high speed broadband. Today, 74% of premises can access high speed broadband.
The NBP procurement process is now at the final stage. I will bring a recommendation to Government in the coming weeks. I do not propose to pre-empt the outcome of my Department's assessment, nor any decision that Government may make.
Expenditure on the National Broadband Plan since 2013 is €25.4M (including VAT). This expenditure includes the cost of corporate and economic advice, technical support and network design, the cost of legal and environmental advice. These services were procured by way of competitive tender. In addition, the Department has staff and other administrative costs related to the NBP.