The national broadband plan is the Government's commitment to design, build and operate a network which will make high-speed broadband available to every rural home within seven years and to continue to operate the service under the terms of the plan contract for up to 35 years.
Eir has made no formal proposal to the Government to replace or supersede the national broadband plan. When she appeared before the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment last week, Eir's chief executive officer, CEO, outlined the company's view on whether the plan offers value for money. She also made certain observations regarding Eir's proposed model for the delivery of rural broadband, which could only be delivered outside of the current procurement process.
My Department requested a detailed outline from Eir setting out the assumptions made and the financial model underpinning those assumptions. Eir provided further information to my Department by letter at close of business on Friday, 28 June. I understand that Eir shared this letter with the joint committee.
The letter suggests that Eir could deliver broadband in the national broadband plan intervention area for a lower cost than envisaged under the plan contract if it was to do so outside what it referred to as the "constraints" of the procurement process. It envisages that these savings could accrue through the use of a model that applies in the Eir 300,000 area.
It must be pointed out, however, that the broad terms of the competition to deliver the national broadband plan were set in 2015 after a consultative process. They were designed to meet the requirements of state aid, the requirements to protect the State’s investment and the requirement to deliver future-proofed, high-speed broadband to every home and premises in the intervention area at a comparable price to those outside. These terms were clear from the outset and were accepted by all those who took part in the process.
Under these terms, Eir made a bid of €2.7 billion. Three alternative costings have now been suggested by Eir on the basis of changing many features of its original bid and altering the terms of the bidding process. My Department and its national broadband plan advisers are analysing the information provided.