My Department engages with NBI on an ongoing basis across all aspects of the project including the impact of Covid-19 on delivery of the project. Despite the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, NBI has made steady progress on delivery of the new high speed fibre broadband network under the National Broadband Plan. I am advised by NBI that, as of 22 January 2021, over 166,000 premises across 26 counties have been surveyed. The first fibre to the home connections are successfully connected and in a test and trial phase in Carrigaline, Co Cork and Cavan. Technical testing and validation will be undertaken prior to a wider release of the areas.
Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are providing high speed broadband in every county in advance of the roll out of the fibre to the home network. As of 22 January 2021, 255 sites have been installed by NBI. In addition, school BCPs will be provided with high speed broadband for educational use through this initiative. An acceleration of this aspect of the project was announced in December which will see some 679 primary schools connected to high speed broadband by 2022, well ahead of the original target delivery timeframe of 2026.
While substantial progress has been made to date, the Covid 19 pandemic has had an impact on the delivery of the fibre network resulting in delays on delivery of aspects of the programme. Impacts include challenges with mobilisation of key contractors with restrictions on operations, supply chain and logistic delays (both nationally and internationally), as welll as the recruitment of key personnel as NBI and its contractors scale, up including challenges associated with on-boarding and training people. Inevitably, like many other organisations, NBI and contractor staff are at risk of contracting Covid 19 or may have to restrict their movements as a result of being a close contact posing further challenges. The extent of this impact is currently being assessed and NBI has committed to put in place measures to mitigate the impact in as far as possible.