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Pandemic causes further delays for National Broadband Plan

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Installing fibre broadband

Installing fibre broadband

Installing fibre broadband

The roll-out of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) has been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government has been told.

Recruitment and accommodation difficulties for contractors caused by the coronavirus crisis are among the issues raised by Department of Communications officials for new minister Eamon Ryan.

Despite the impact of the pandemic, the Government last night insisted the target dates for the roll-out remain the same.

The goal of the NBP is to ensure every home, school and business in Ireland - regardless how remote or rural - has access to high-speed broadband.

The project has been hit by delays and controversy in recent years.

But the contract for delivering the NBP was signed last November with National Broadband Ireland (NBI) which has been incorporated with the specific purpose of delivering the network to the so-called intervention area.

Under the plans, more than 90pc of premises in the State are to have access to high speed broadband within the next four years.

The briefing for Green Party leader Mr Ryan says that key sub-contractors - Eir, eNet, Actavo and KN Circet - have begun planning and development on behalf of NBI.

Efficiency

The target by the end of next year is to pass roughly 115,000 premises, with between 70,000 and 100,000 passed each year thereafter until roll-out is completed.

The first fibre to the home connection is expected to be made in the last quarter of 2020. The officials said that "Covid-19 has impacted the delivery of the NBP Programme".

Areas affected include the "efficiency of the design process and the development of the operational environment processes and tools".

Another issue is the availability of accommodation for contractors across Ireland.

Access to islands and some buildings such as schools/GAA centres has also been impacted as has the speed of delivery of supplies from overseas.

The recruitment of personnel is said to be "more difficult online".

Last night, a Department spokesperson said: "NBI remain confident that in the medium to long term they can recover from and mitigate these delays to make up any lost ground.

"Design work is complete or ongoing in target townlands across 17 counties, with over 63,000 premises surveyed to date.

"This survey work is feeding into detailed designs for each deployment area and laying fibre should start shortly with the first fibre to home connection expected around December 2020."