Delays feared as resignation of communications minister prompts review of tender process

Ireland’s plan to deploy new broadband networks in rural areas has been thrown into disarray, after the resignation of communications minister Denis Naughten prompted the government to commission an independent review of the tender process.

The Independent reported this week that the terms of reference and timeframe for the report have yet to be established, leading opposition politicians to express concern that this could lead to a delay.

"If they don’t put a sunset clause on the report the delivery of broadband could go well into the late 2020s at this stage," said Labour Party communications spokesperson Seán Sherlock, in the report.
"We should have had a terms of reference by now, we’re into a new week and it doesn’t take that long to draw up terms of reference and if we’re not seeing them by the end of this week, that’s a sure-fire sign that the government is playing for time on this issue."

A government spokesperson said in the report that "the terms of reference and timeframe for the report will be finalised shortly."

Ireland’s rural broadband plan aims to cover half a million premises, and the government is the midst of a tender process to choose a supplier for the network deployment.

However, the plan became embroiled in controversy when it emerged that Denis Naughten, minister for communications, climate action and environment, had attended a private meeting with David McCourt, CEO of Granahan McCourt, parent of Enet, which is the only remaining consortium in the broadband tender.

The revelation led to Naughten’s resignation last week, prompting Ireland’s prime minister Leo Varadkar to order a review.