FG putting electoral politics first with broadband announcement

07 May 2019

Reacting to the Government’s announcement on awarding a €3 billion tender against the advice of senior civil servants, the former Minister for Public Expenditure, and leader of the Labour Party, Brendan Howlin TD, accused Fine Gael of putting electoral politics before the public good.

Brendan said: “Labour wants to see rural broadband delivered, but this plan risks leaving people in rural Ireland totally dependent on a private monopoly, which will ultimately be able to charge what it wants for access to the Internet.

“The timing of this announcement is purely to influence the upcoming local and European elections. A contract hasn’t even been signed yet and the Government is simply announcing a Preferred Bidder in a situation where there only is one bidder.

 “Fine Gael’s plan not only flies in the face of official advice that it is poor value for money, but it simply doesn’t make sense. According the Government, we will set up a new private company and give them €3 billion of public money. They will then give €1 billion of that money to another private company, even though we have a publicly owned electricity network going to every home in the State that could carry broadband cable.

“The Government has not published the advice of the Attorney General, which it is using as cover to avoid asking ESB if it could deliver rural broadband for a lower price. It is my firm view that European rules do not block this option, as it is incumbent on the Government to publish its legal advice for scrutiny.

“Fine Gael’s preference is to put vital infrastructure into private hands forever.

“This whole process has been badly handled from the outset. From a situation with five bidders in a competition to provide the service, which might have reduced the price, this government collapsed that process by allowing Eir to remove a third of homes from the national scheme.

“This rushed politicised process is not the way to provide vital infrastructure. Labour would immediately instruct ESB to estimate the cost to provide rural broadband as a publicly-owned network. Only a public network can guarantee rural Ireland affordable access to the Internet into the future.”

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